South African Airways pilots given 48-hour 'lockout' notice, administrators say

The SAA administrator has given pilots a two-day notice from accessing the firm's premises.
The SAA administrator has given pilots a two-day notice from accessing the firm's premises.
Image: Jacques Stander/Gallo Images

Administrators at struggling South African Airways (SAA) said on Wednesday they have issued a 48-hour notice to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company's premises until they agree to new employment terms and conditions.

SAA entered a local form of bankruptcy protection in December of 2019 after roughly a decade of financial losses, and its fortunes worsened after it grounded flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Efforts to rescue the state airline face resistance from trade unions, who are at loggerheads with the government over wages.

The administrators, who argue that pilots had "very extensive and lavish benefits" said the lockout will affect 383 pilots who are members of the SAA Pilots' Association (SAAPA).

The administrators want the pilots to accept new terms and conditions, which include new salary scales.

Reuters was not able to immediately reach SAAPA for comment.

The lockout blocks SAAPA members from the airline's workplace beginning midday on Friday, until the administrator's demands are accepted. Affected pilots will not be entitled to any remuneration or benefits for the duration of the lockout.

"The proposed new terms and conditions are fair and competitive for a regional African airline," the administrators said in a statement.

"In fact, SAA has among the highest cost base in terms of pilots' salaries, meal allowances, leave and sick pay and travel rebate benefits internationally. This cannot continue if the business rescue of SAA is to succeed," they said.

Out of SAA's roughly 4,500 staff when it entered administration in December 2019, around 3,200 have accepted severance terms and 1,300 are still in layoff consultations.

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