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Turbulent times at SAA as pilots demand to be retrenched. The Head of SAA Pilot’s Association, Grant Back, told the BizNews Pour Hour that they have not been paid in a year and are proceeding with their uncommon strike. Grant is joined in conversation by Leon Louw of FMF and the team at BizNews.
Grant Back on his last flight:
I landed back in Johannesburg from Munich on the 28th of February. I actually did that flight with my son, not knowing it would be my last. It was at least a special one that’s in the memory and certainly a special moment. It’s been over a year and a lot of guys, pretty much, ended their careers at SAA in March. There’s been very little flying since then.
Grant Back on whether he has been paid over the last year:
We haven’t. It’s coming up to a year that pilots haven’t received pay. There were those initial flights – the cargo flights – when the lockdown took place, I think it was about April/May. Those pilots, obviously, did receive a bit of money, but the vast majority haven’t earned a salary for a year. This is all the while other employees have either been paid the voluntary severance packages and alternatively, other employees have actually got three months back pay and now another this month – so four months.
We’re currently locked out. We have been since the 18th of December. Ironically, we’ve agreed to cancel our agreement. Really, the lockout is more about how they want to retrench us, as opposed to us giving up this onerous evergreen agreement that’s been painted as the real reason that SAA has failed – which is laughable, if you think about the billions that have been misappropriated over the years.
Grant Back on whether it’s been worth the fight against SAA:
It’s been a long fight. I’ve been in the airline for 26 years. I’ve been in a union for 18 and I somehow landed up in a chair position for the last two and a half years. It’s been very difficult for my executive – in particular my business rescue team that I’ve working with – there’s about five of us. Of course, it’s also been taxing on myself and our families. It permeates every aspect of our lives.
Since lockdown, my days are spent sitting out in meetings. As you know, we are going on strike [and] taking industrial action. We had hoped that we could discuss our demands. I’m not sure if you’ve seen them in the press, but pretty much it lends itself to us demanding to be retrenched and us demanding to cancel our agreement. I don’t think this has ever happened before. It’s unprecedented.
Piet Viljoen on the future of SAA:
I think it’s very sad. It’s only the sort of thing [that] can be brought about by government. This is normally the sort of thing that happens when governments get involved and you have delinquent directors involved with what goes on there. It’s not an outcome one would wish on anyone. As for advice, I have no advice. I think it’s an intractable situation that the pilots – and other staff members – find themselves in. It’s a situation not of their own making, it is something that was forced upon them. I can only wish them the best of luck in their endeavours to get what they deserve at a minimum.
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