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Retrenching 538 highly qualified Denel (AMG)/SAAF employees a futile exercise

The retrenchment of 538 Denel employees as of 14 February 2013, confirmed by Major Gen Mbambo (Acting Chief of the Air Force) from the South Africa Air Force earlier this week, will without a doubt jeopardise the South African Air Force’s defence capabilities.

Without the specialised technical services provided by these employees, who are in the employ of AMG (Aero Manpower Group), a business unit of Denel Aviation, the SAAF may soon experience serious capacity problems.

Denel CEO, Mr. Riaz Saloojee, and his team discussed and proposed several workable solutions to assist the SAAF, but to no avail. Intervention requested from the Departments of Defence, Public Enterprises and even government ministers prvoed fruitless.

UASA finds this whole exercise a futile one. Not only will someone have to foot the bill for the approximate R170 million that will have to be paid out in terms of severance packages, but should the SAAF decide to employ some of these highly skilled employees, they will of course have to remunerate them!

The possibility of individual re-contracting is slim since not only the trust relationship between the employees and the SAAF has suffered a complete breakdown, but they will be easily absorbed by other aircraft institutions, both locally and internationally. Highly skilled employees with many years of practical experience in the field of aircraft maintenance, radio/radar, electronics and engineers are sought after.

It is clear that the SAAF/AMG contract situation did not receive the attention it needs in terms of finding a more amicable solution to the problem. Although there exists some understanding regarding the SAAF’s budget problems – they have to mothball many of their expensive fighter aircraft, probably cancel weapons camp exercises and reduce their fighter aircraft pilots flying hours to a possible 100 flying hours per year – they will lose the capability of servicing and handling of President Zuma’s aircraft as of February this year.

It is a sad day in the history of AMG employees and the proud history of the South African Air Force.

Only time will tell what the future holds for the South African Air Force capabilities in the near and longer future. It is simply impossible to even think that one can replace this expertise within a short period of time.

In the meantime, the employees are to be retrenched in terms of the Labour Relations Act in which UASA will support and negotiate on behalf of their more than 50% membership.