Workers try fresh approach, bid to buy SA Express

An SA Express plane coming in to land. Picture: Twitter

‘Nobody knows better how to run the airline than those who have spent their lives doing so,’ says Thabsile Sikakane, spokesperson for Fly SAX, the acquiring entity which is bidding for SA Express.

The employees of SA Express, which was placed in business rescue in February, have incorporated a special purpose vehicle (SPV) as an acquiring entity to bid for the airline.

Thabsile Sikakane, spokesperson for Fly SAX, the acquiring entity which is bidding for SA Express, said the Covid 19 pandemic has profoundly changed the working lives of SA Express employees, who have lost their jobs and others have had no choice but to continue working in handy jobs.

“It is our right to have a decent job with decent pay that would lift us back into the workforce,” she says.
SA Express employees felt an urgency to embark on a new approach, to “take back destiny into their own hands,” she says.

This can be achieved through establishing an airline, which they can own and administer.

Sikakane said the capital raised will be structured through an equity funding model to finance and scale employee ownership conversions in a worker-centric and transformative way. The social capital will serve as a tool for real, transformative change in the ownership model.

“The proposed funding model is one where the ultimate purpose would be to vest ownership in the workers.

“The goal is to create a vehicle that leaves more of the value with stakeholders, as well as anchor investors upon exit.

“The proposed employee shares ownership plan will not only improve income and wealth distribution but also improve productivity, because the employees will now be the owners,” Sikakane said in a statement.

“The benefits of accepting this funding model include amongst other things, the possibility of the business enterprise being positioned to resume operations and result in saving a significant number of jobs through the avoidance of liquidation.

“There is also a shorter expected time to get returns and distributions to the creditor than would arise under the alternative liquidation scenario, and that the unconditional consent to sell all assets of SA Express is disposed of for maximum value.”

“South Africa will see a genuine broad-based employee ownership plan which will be privately held and publicly traded. It will be founded on pro-public, democratic principles, and a fundamental framework of democratic ownership,” says Sikakane.

Going beyond board representation, the employees would seek to advance a new democratic form of management and ownership that would value the practical knowledge and skills of workers by involving them in day to day decision-making.

Those who have the knowledge should be at the core of the design and operation of services, as “nobody knows better how to run the airline than those who have spent their lives doing so,” says Sikakane.

This democratic ownership involves collaboration between public institutions, citizens, and workers, and it calls for all players to be involved in facilitating this process, she says.

“Therefore, we the employees take pleasure in submitting an offer to acquire the business of South African Express Airways SOC Limited as a going concern, subject to prevailing terms and conditions,” she says.

(Compiled by Carina Koen)

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