South Africa Suspends Deadline For SAA Employee Layoffs

On Thursday, the deadline for South African Airways staff to agree to the terms for their severance package was suspended by a judge. The suspension will last while he considers his ruling in the court case brought by two trade unions against the airline.

South African Airways, Flight Cancellations, Cash Worries
A judge has delayed the deadline for South African Airways’ staff to agree to layoff terms. Photo: Getty Images

Deadline pushed back after hearing Thursday

As reported by Reuters, a judge in South Africa has delayed the deadline that had been set by administrators trying to rescue the collapsing South African Airways for its staff to agree to layoff terms. The administrators had said that unions must agree to severance terms by today, the 8th of May, otherwise a layoff agreement would be offered to all employees.

Staff would then have until the 11th of May to accept the terms, or the airline could simply start laying off its 5,000 employees. These deadlines have now been pushed back by a judge until he considers his ruling in the case.

The court case is brought against SAA by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) in order to block the all-encompassing job cuts. They have asked the Labour Court to order the rescue team to withdraw the proposed layoffs or suspend talks on job cuts until they have seen a business rescue plan.

The administrators, rescue specialists Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, opposed the unions in court in a hearing on Thursday.

South African Airways SAA
Two unions have brought a court case against the struggling carrier. Photo: Getty Images

Coronavirus the final straw

While many airlines are buckling under the weight of the COVID-19 crisis, South African Airways woes go back way further than that. The airline has not made a profit since 2011 and has received bailouts worth more than 20 billion rand ($1.1 billion) over the past three years.

The administrators have until the end of the month to draft a rescue plan for SAA. The airline filed for a form of bankruptcy protection in December last year. The South African government wants to see its national carrier live on but restructured into a new airline.

South African Airways Aircraft
SAA might reemerge restructured. Photo: Getty Images

Flying cargo and repatriates throughout May

The airline said in a statement on Friday that it will continue to operate cargo and repatriation flightsthrough the month of May and beyond.” It said it had received several requests for repatriation flights to operate to “North, West and East Africa, the UK, the Middle East, South and North America, and the Far East” during the course of the month. So there may yet be time to glance the SAA livery approaching a runway.

Do you think this is the end of the South African Airways saga, or will we see yet another chapter? How do you think a future South African flag-carrier could be structured? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 

Simple Flying has reached out to SAA for a comment but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.