Liquidation of SA Express ‘regrettable’: Unions

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SA Express’s liquidation has been described as regrettable. Labour unions have slammed the government over what they describe as the inability to safeguard jobs.

The High Court in Johannesburg granted an order of liquidation of SA Express – leaving over 700 employees and their families out in the cold.  This liquidation comes at a time when the few remaining domestic airlines face operational challenges.

Workers unions representing hundreds of employees say goodbye to yet another local carrier.

SA Express could no longer afford to pay its mounting debt level. The airline is believed to have over R900 million rand in liabilities owed to creditors.

Almost R138 million in unpaid salaries.  Over 700 employees have now been left unemployed. The unions blame corruption, looting and state capture

DYPUSA General Secretary Mashudu Raphetha says, “The revival of SA Express was supposed to have been given priority by the South African government as the only entity that had the capacity to revive the airline in order to fly again. We believe that the SA government and politicians have failed the people of South Africa, people have looted corruptly so and have taken money from this airline and have killed it much to the dismay of our members.”

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) says measures to save the airline have not been successful. Now the only thing remaining is to ensure that the workers are fairly compensated.

SATAWU Spokesperson Amanda Tshemese says, “It’s really sad because even the country right now is facing a high rate of unemployment, especially young people. However we are going to make sure that our members are given a reasonable percentage in the form of shares so they can keep on going for a while”

Other unions have on the other hand bemoaned the lack of transparency in events leading to the liquidation.

SACCA president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi says, “We have opposed the liquidation of SA Express on many occasions, but unfortunately, the people that should be pushing and fighting for the survival of SAA like the DPE have failed to oppose any process like this, they have been absent. Aviwe the liquidator has been extremely secretive about many things in the liquidation process.”

Thabisile Sikhakhane has been working for SA Express for years. She says the liquidation has left employees already struggling to make ends meet -devastated.

SA Express employee Thabisile Sikhakhane laments, “We are truly saddened with the final liquidation of SA Express after numerous attempts to try resuscitating the airline. We believe that government now has a moral obligation to step in and ensure that the employees get what is due to them.”

Aviation expert Dr Joachim Vermooten has also weighed in on the liquidation of SA Express saying the move will see competitors stepping in to fill the pace.

“Unfortunately this means that there is no recourse for the employees that have not been paid and as far as market share and routes it operated, the competitors will have to step up and enter this market to ensure there is no gap left by the liquidation of SA Express.”

The unions have called on the government to convene an urgent aviation summit to address many problems that have mired the aviation sector in recent years. They are concerned that failure to act could see the last remaining airlines such as SAA and Mango also closing shop – leaving more workers without jobs.