South African trade union, Solidarity, has announced that only 139 employees out of 523 will be retained on a new aircraft maintenance contract to be signed between the South African Air Force (SAAF) and defense contractor Denel Aviation/AeroManpower Group. This means that 384 employees will lose their jobs by the end of March. The union had originally pinned its hopes on 150 personnel being retained.
The CEO of Denel Aviation, Mr Mike Kgobe, offered little commiseration for the 384 soon-to-be-redundant employees stating that he was delighted that an agreement had been finalised with the SAAF which will see the company continue to deliver vital maintenance services to the SAAF that form a cornerstone for continued airworthiness and the upkeep of air assets.
“This is a win-win situation for both Denel and the SAAF which is indicative of the mature and strategic relationship that exists between the two organisations which was reinforced through the cooperation agreement concluded between the two organisations in 2012, ” he said.
Mr Kgobe says the 139 positions retained were identified in terms of the skills requirements by the SAAF which would be complemented by SAAF’s own capability.
“This is indeed a breakthrough. With this solution we are able to ensure that the jobs of some of our employees across a number of categories and locations are retained with the requisite order cover."
Jack Loggenberg, spokesperson for Solidarity, was not so positive on the outcome adding that of the 139 employees to be retained, 24 are members of his trade union.
"This means that 203 of Solidarity's members will be unemployed by the end of next month. Solidarity's members constitute 52% of the 384 employees who will lose their jobs. It is most disappointing that only a handful of experts will be assured of work for the next year. The new contract is valid for 12 months. Chances are remote that the remaining employees will be redeployed within Denel or within other companies. Those employees received final notices yesterday in order for Denel to comply with the termination date of 31 March of the current contract."
Solidarity represents 227 of the 523 aircraft specialists. These employees are stationed at various squadrons countrywide, including Hoedspruit, Lephalale (Ellisras), Louis Trichardt, Bredasdorp, Ysterplaat and Langebaan. Around 40% of the aircraft specialists are stationed in Pretoria.