The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) has appealed to Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to intervene in what it called the “looming skills crisis” facing the South African Air Force (SAAF).
“The crisis will become reality if Aero Manpower Group (AMG), a Denel business unit, goes ahead with plans to retrench more than 500 highly skilled engineers and technicians,” Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said.
The umbrella organisation of 18 trade unions, collectively representing more than half a million workers, has written to Minister Mapisa-Nqakula asking for an urgent meeting to discuss the issue.
“The retrenchment of 523 Denel employees, confirmed by the SAAF, will without doubt jeopardise its capabilities.”
The aero specialists will, until the end of March, still be responsible for maintenance of a variety of SAAF aircraft at bases across the country. Earlier this month Denel Personnel Solution (DPS) said AMG had no contracts or order cover, apart from the cancelled SAAF contract, and retrenchment was inevitable. The personnel agency of the government-owned defence industry conglomerate said it was in discussions with representative trade unions as regards potential future employment.
“Denel has committed to assist with seeking job opportunities for those affected in Denel and the broader market,” Denel Group communications manager Sinah Phochana said in a statement.
While discussions with Fedusa affiliate Uasa (representing 73 000 workers) and Solidarity continue, George is of the opinion the Minister is best placed to deal with the AMG retrenchment issue.
“Apart from the obvious loss of jobs and associated socio-economic repercussions, it would be unfortunate if these retrenchments were to go ahead as critical skills needed in the economy would be lost.”
Government, through the Department of Trade and Industry, is involved in a number of aerospace industry initiatives to grow this sector of the South African economy. These include the Centurion Aerospace Village, adjacent to Aerosud on the eastern side of AFB Waterkloof, and the CSIR-led Aerospace Industry Support Initiative.