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The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) says it believes the human rights of employees of collapsing state-owned airline SA Express have been infringed because they have not been paid for work done nor given retrenchment packages.
SA Express is in provisional liquidation with a final liquidation order set to be confirmed next week. Employees were not paid for March and April, prior to the company ceasing to do business, and received only R6,000 in the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme payments for the months the of May, June and July.
The commission has written to the Treasury and the departments of public enterprises, and employment and labour, requesting an urgent meeting prior to the final liquidation order on Wednesday, to “mediate for a solution to that corrects the alleged human rights violations of the SA Express employees”.
In the letter, the commission says the “mismanagement” of the company, which involves flagrant transgressions of the law by public servants prior to the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, is responsible for the company’s collapse.
This has resulted in a violation of the 691 employees’ rights on five counts: the right to have their dignity respected and protected; the right not to be subjected to servitude and forced labour; the right to fair labour practices; their right to access socio-economic provisions that would be accessed using their unpaid salaries or retrenchment packages; and the inability to ensure their children’s basic rights by being able to provide food and shelter and nutrition.
The commission said that, while it is aware that SA Express is governed by the Companies Act and now the Insolvency Act, “these are subordinate and bound by the constitution and the values therein”.
The director-general of public enterprises Kgathatso Tlhakudi confirmed on Thursday that the department had received the letter and would avail itself for engagements on matters related to the SA Express employees.
Tlhakudi said that, while the department is deeply sympathetic to the employees, the company is a limited liability business and shareholder involvement after a company has failed is governed by law.
“The plight of SA Express employees is unfortunate. It is a result of financial difficulties that were worsened by the malfeasance that took root in recent years, and especially during the state-capture period,” he said.
While employees had, in the past, approached the government proposing paying each employee an exit package, this had turned out to be “a complex matter due to the limitations associated with legal prescripts and the constrained public purse”, he said.
SA Express employees feel particularly aggrieved as, unlike their counterparts at SAA, they have not been promised retrenchment packages.
Meanwhile, at SAA, anxiety among employees and union representatives is growing as there is still no indication of when retrenchment packages will be paid and how they will be funded. The company needs R2.2bn for retrenchment pay.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association, last week, called on members at SAA not to sign final notices for voluntary retrenchment packages until the department of public enterprises is able to confirm it has raised resources to fund them.
The unions said they believe that if members terminate their relationship with the company before they receive payment there is a danger that they would not be paid at all. It would also cast them in a poor light as members might view them as complicit in making a deal that did not materialise.
But the business rescue practitioners have said that employees would be better off signing the voluntary severance packages as this makes them a post-commencement claim against SAA. If the business rescue of SAA ultimately fails and the company is liquidated, employee payments have a ceiling of R32,000 — far lower than the packages promised.
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SA Express staff make daring bid to buy the airline to save their jobs
By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published 8h ago 15 Sept 2020
JOHANNESBURG – Desperate SA Express employees have made a daring attempt to save hundreds of their jobs with an ambitious bid to buy the state-owned airline and prevent it from final liquidation.
SA Express workers yesterday said they had incorporated a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to bid for the airline's assets, subject to prevailing terms and conditions. They said the SPV would be anchored by a private investor and owned by a public limited company, Fly SAX, with SA Express’s 691 employees as the owners.
Fly SAX spokesperson Thabsile Sikakane said the government had failed SA Express employees, as they have been without jobs and have not been paid since February.
“It is our right to have a decent job with decent pay that would lift us back into the workforce,” Sikakane said.
“Our government has not only subjected workers to poverty, but has also killed their morale.”
SA Express flights have been grounded since March 18, after the company was placed in business rescue in February.
Last week, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an extension for its final liquidation to October 28 after the airline's business rescue rescuers failed to raise funds to save the regional airline.
SA Express employees have been on an equity crowdfunding platform Uprise.Africa since August to raise the capital needed to save the airline, which they estimated was worth at least R1.5 billion.
Sikakane could not be drawn into how much they were bidding for SA Express or how they were raising capital, but emphasised that the proposed funding model would be to vest ownership in the workers.
She said the capital raised would be structured through an equity funding model to finance and scale employee ownership conversions in a worker-centric and transformative way.
Sikakane said the benefit of this funding model was the possibility of SA Express being positioned to resume operations and result in saving a significant number of jobs.
Liquidation would result with the sale of all SA Express assets for maximum value with the proceeds shared among the company's creditors.
“South Africa will see a genuine broad-based employee ownership plan which will be privately held and publicly traded,” she said. “It will be founded on pro-public, democratic principles, and a fundamental framework of democratic ownership.”
She said although the proposed intervention may not be a silver bullet to save SA Express, it held real potential, particularly if the government was supportive.
The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) has so far remained obtuse to the plight of SA Express workers, choosing to allow the courts to conclude the liquidation process.
The DPE spokesperson Sam Mkokeli and liquidator Aviwe Ndyamara were not immediately available to comment on the bid.
https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/c ... 1a8733cd36