The writing appears to be finally on the wall for the 528 aircraft specialists at Denel Aviation/AMG (Aero Manpower Group) after Denel Personnel Solutions said there was no contract or order cover beyond March 31 this year and the only option was “retrenchment of the entire AMG workforce”.
However, Jack Loggenberg, national organiser for the metal and engineering industries at Solidarity told defenceWeb consultations were “still underway” in terms of section 189 of the Labour Act.
The AMG technicians are responsible for maintenance and airworthiness of a number of SA Air Force (SAAF) platforms, including some in the VIP squadron. In addition to being at AFB Waterkloof in Centurion where 21 Squadron is headquartered, AMG personnel are based at a number of other air force bases across the country.
Worrying to the trade union is that at least 75% of the more than 500 AMG personnel are in the scarce and critical skills band without which efficient functioning of the SAAF will not be possible. The SAAF has not yet indicated how the possible loss of this maintenance contract will affect its flying capacity or what, if any, alternative arrangements are in place.
The retrenchment issue first raised its head in November when it was publicly revealed the SAAF would not be renewing its contract with AMG. Attempts to establish exactly what arrangements the SAAF has or is making with regard to this critical maintenance have not been forthcoming even though Lieutenant General Zakes Msimang’s arm of service informed Denel Aviation/AMG of the decision not to renew the contract more than a year ago.
The SAAF/AMG contract was cancelled because it did not meet the regulations prescribed in the Public Finance Management Act and prescripts set by National Treasury. It was apparently renewed without going to open tender.
Late last year Loggenberg indicated the SAAF would be responsible for paying severance packages if retrenchments became reality. This could change because there is no clarity about these packages being for the SAAF account because of the March contract expiry date.
He is also concerned AMG retrenchments could have a ripple effect within Denel Aviation, which has undergone a restructuring process.