South African Airways’ (SAA) leading cabin crew union are demanding the airline’s management be investigated for corruption and looting. Yesterday, SAA cabin crew members formed a united front in a protest at Airways Park, near OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
They chanted to the effect that employee relation’s head of department Lourens Erasmus “must fall”, citing “bullying” and intimidation of union members and leaders.
SAA reportedly made a whopping R4.7 billion loss in the 2014-15 financial year and the union, the South African Cabin Crew Association, stated in a memorandum addressed to the SAA board and Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan that “management should be investigated for looting”.
The memo also said that performance bonuses should not be paid to management until the airline becomes profitable.
The Citizen has reported that confidential documents demonstrate that pilots are costing the airline an estimated R2 billion in pay and excessive benefits a year. The demands of the union members included equal benefits for the workers, such as car and cellphone allowances, for “medical crew to be in line with all other government entities” and for cabin crew salaries to be market-related.
The memorandum was handed over to the acting general manager for human resources, Mbongeni Manqele, and the airline’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali.
Tlali said the employees’ concerns will receive attention but that management needed time to apply its mind to these matters. He said issues that need the attention of the board and the minister of finance will be addressed accordingly.
The marchers shouted that they were tired of “suffering” and being subjected to ill-treatment under the current management, emphasising that this was just the beginning of their protests.
One of the demonstrators, Mpho Moikangoa, shouted “passengers fly because of us”. “Not only am I a flight attendant, I’m a technician, caterer, first aid person, a counsellor for passengers, safety instructor and a cleaner as well. We (cabin crew members) see no colour. We are not white, black or pink. We are none of those because we don’t belong to any political organisation, we are purple,” he said referring to the colour of their union.
Other concerns raised by cabin crew member Matthew Kleinhans, who has been employed by the airline for almost 20 years, were that the majority of cabin crew members had been sick due to the cold in the aircraft galleys. He said this had been raised, but management had ignored it.
“You sit there at the back in the flight and you freeze. We have been saying how can you expect us to sit in these fridges? This is a rectifiable fault … It’s a nightmare. I force my members to wear a blanket because I cannot afford to have a sick member who will not be able to exercise their duties, should there be an emergency,” said Kleinhans.
He added: “We have been given more duties but less manpower. They keep reducing the staff complement but increasing the workload. We are tired of that and we have been querying it.”