The South African Air Force’s air servicing units will lose 389 skilled maintenance technicians on April 1 but will retain the services of 139 specialists following the expiration of the contract with Denel’s Aero Manpower Group (AMG).
This is a net loss of just less than 75% of the specialist and skilled workers from one Denel business unit, the majority of who are classified as having scarce skills.
The retention of the 139 specialists is in terms of a negotiated skills supply agreement between the South African Air Force (SAAF) and Aero Manpower Group that will see them deployed to various SAAF air servicing units (ASUs) across the country, including AFB Waterkloof, where the VIP squadron is based. According to Denel, they will still be employed by the state-owned defence industry conglomerate.
The agreement brings to an end protracted negotiations that started last November when the SAAF announced it would not renew its contract with AMG. The cancellation was put down to the contract apparently being in violation of sections of the Public Finance Management Act.
The termination of the contract, with no further work in hand, left a total of 528 AMG aircraft engineers and technicians facing retrenchment. Negotiations between various trade unions, including Solidarity and Fedusa, and Denel ended this week when it was announced that a year contract for 139 specialists had been agreed to.
Solidarity’s Jack Loggenberg said negotiations with Denel would continue with a view to finding work for the 389 retrenched AMG personnel in other Denel divisions, business units or companies but he was not optimistic about this process.
Addressing Parliament’s Standing committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) earlier this week, Defence Secretary Dr Sam Gulube said that not all the 500 plus workers could be classified as having scarce and specialist skills. He also indicated those who remained on the Denel payroll would be used for skills transfer to enable to SAAF to build capacity in this sector.
Denel Aviation chief executive Mike Kgobe said the agreement will see the company continue delivering “vital maintenance services” to the SAAF.