Neels Blom Columnist
Flying solo: Dirk Hermann, CEO of union Solidarity, believes jobs would be saved if SAA underwent a business rescue. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BEELD/ FELIX DLANGAMANDLA
Flying solo: Dirk Hermann, CEO of union Solidarity, believes jobs would be saved if SAA underwent a business rescue. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/BEELD/ FELIX DLANGAMANDLA

Trade union Solidarity’s intention to have South African Airways (SAA) placed in business rescue is a form of tax revolt, but a legal one, says the union’s CEO, Dirk Hermann.

The union officially announced on Thursday that it would apply to the high court for an order to place SAA in a business rescue process under the Companies Act.

Earlier this week it invited Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene to join its application.

Solidarity has 350 members at SAA and is not recognised by the airline.

The recognised unions at SAA, South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, National Union of Metalworkers of SA, South African Cabin Crew Association, National Transport Movement and Aviation Workers Union of SA, all rejected Solidarity’s proposed court action.

The five unions said in a joint statement on Thursday that a business rescue process would not be in the best interests of the workers. "It is for this reason the unions are willing to be cited as co-respondents with SAA in Solidarity’s legal action," the unions said.

The unions support SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana, the board and the turnaround strategy under way at the national carrier.

"It has hardly been six months since the board and Jarana were appointed to take over the running of SAA, but already there is a spirit of openness blowing through the corridors," they said.

In its most recent report on SAA, the office of the auditor-general expressed concern about its status as a going concern. It had shown a R5.6bn loss for 2017 and an operating loss of R3.7bn since 2016. Its losses came to R31.6bn over five years.

SAA told Parliament in March it expected a further R5bn loss for 2018.

Hermann said Solidarity had expected opposition to its bid from the government and SAA. He said a business rescue would save jobs by saving SAA.

The five unions said Jarana was engaging with unions.

"Perhaps it is precisely because Solidarity suspects the current board and CEO are on the right track and might just succeed in turning SAA around, that it is taking this action now. Why else has it been quiet all along?" said the unions.

SAA had not responded to questions at the time of writing.

blomn@businesslive.co.za

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