Military vehicles are on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo at the Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria, South Africa, in this September 21 2018 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/JOE BAVIERr
Military vehicles are on display at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) expo at the Waterkloof Air Force Base near Pretoria, South Africa, in this September 21 2018 file photo. Picture: REUTERS/JOE BAVIERr

Nearly a thousand Solidarity union members protested on Wednesday over pay at cash-strapped state-owned weapons manufacturer Denel.

Denel, which produces military equipment for SA’s army and foreign forces, has held talks with unions on voluntary severance packages, reduced working hours and pay cuts for some staff as it struggles to emerge from a financial crisis.

The company did not pay managers and specialists their full salaries in September.

The workers demonstrated after Denel said it could pay salaries in October but salaries for November and other allowances were not guaranteed.

“We’re bringing attention to the board that they’re sitting with a huge number of unhappy and insecure employees not knowing if they’ll have an income next month,” said Solidarity deputy general secretary Johan Botha.

“The Denel board needs to implement a turnaround strategy as soon as possible ... to pull this issue out of the fire.”

He said the protesters had handed over a memorandum and a petition of grievances to Denel CEO Michael Kgobe. 

The arms manufacturer's spokesperson, Pam Malinda, said there was no dispute between management and workers. “There is no protected strike or lockout taking place, which may raise legal questions about the rationale and applicability of a picket,” she said. 

A protected strike prohibits employers from dismissing employees for participating in industrial action and also prevents companies from taking civil legal action against a strike.

“The board and management will continue with its efforts to turn the company around, strengthen corporate governance and stabilise Denel’s financial position,” Malinda said.

In April, President Cyril Ramaphosa oversaw the appointment of a new Denel board as part of a wider plan to improve the governance and finances of state firms. Saudi Arabia had approached SA  about taking a stake in Denel, foreign affairs minister Lindiwe Sisulu said last week.  Reuters