The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) alongside the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) are demanding that South African Airways (SAA) group executive Vuyani Jarana be reinstated with immediate effect.
Jarana vacated his position over a week ago, with his resignation letter which was leaked to the media, painting a picture of a sorry state of affairs at the airline.
He bemoaned the lack of support from government in tackling mounting debt levels, bureaucratic hurdles getting in the way of key decisions and a lack of trust between the state and the executive as some of the chief reasons responsible for government “systematically undermining” the successful implementation of the strategy.
Numsa and Sacca made the demand of Jarana’s reinstatement in a memorandum handed over to the national carrier during a picket at SAA on Tuesday.
The unions were picketing at major airports on Tuesday over a “myriad” of issues including Jarana’s resignation.
Numsa and Sacca are further demanding that the SAA board should ensure that Jarana receives the necessary support, and that it should stop being a stumbling block to initiatives meant to support the airline’s turnaround strategy and that Jarana must be allowed the opportunity to achieve his 2021 plan.
The two unions further called for the removal of certain board members within seven days, namely, Thandeka Mgoduso, Peter Tshisevhe, Geoff Rothschild and non-executive director and Rothschild & Co South Africa CEO Martin Kingston.
This lot is accused of allowing corruption to take place at SAA, ignoring damning recommendations made in various forensic reports such as the Ernest Young and Open Water report, which Jarana was dealing with, the unions said.
“They have failed to explain to workers as to why SAA was transferred from Treasury to the department of public enterprises, which in turn, is one of the reasons why it is difficult to obtain funding quickly,” the unions said in a statement.
Mgoduso was also accused of failing to play her oversight role and interfering with operational issues.
“This is a clear sign that the board has deliberately sabotaged Jarana in order for him to resign.”
The unions further said that this indicated that the board had left Jarana struggling to implement the long-term turnaround strategy.
“When Numsa demanded that the board implement the recommendations made by Open Water Forensic Reports, the board decided to rush to the courts in order to protect corrupt officials across SAA who are their allies. Mr Jarana was determined to root out corruption at the airline and he acted in accordance with the recommendations of the reports by suspending some of the officials implicated in order to save the airline.”
The unions are also demanding that the entire board should resign “because they have lied to employees in saying that Mr Jarana refused to act for a period of three months”.
“Mr Jarana was willing to serve out his three-month notice, and he was pushed out by the board, without any proper handover. This is once again, putting SAA in a precarious position and jeopardising the turnaround strategy which they claim to support.”
A 48-hour deadline was given to the board to rescind its decision of accepting Jarana’s resignation.
“Should our demands not be met, we will mobilise our members across SAA and other airlines where we are organised, including SAA subsidiaries (Air chefs, Mango, SAA technical) and suppliers within the value chain and embark on a strike which will shut down aviation as a whole.”
(Additional reporting, Tebogo Tshwane, Moneyweb)