Air Chefs workers living in squalor

Johannesburg- Hundreds of employees of embattled Air Chefs face a life of squalor having gone months without receiving their salaries with no help in sight.

Workers at the South African Airways (SAA) subsidiary have now gone a year without getting their salaries.

Before that, they were surviving on the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employer Relief Scheme (Ters) benefits, which were last paid in October last year.

Sunday World has seen an internal communication dated 18 August 2021, where the company’s human resources department said:

“Due to the backlog in payroll administration as a result of the salary incentive for 1 April 2020 to 30 July 2021, the company will process the payment of 1-15 August 2021 days worked early in September 2021. This will enable management to fully consolidate the worked days.”

However, the employees have not seen a penny to date. Employees who spoke to Sunday World this week on condition of remaining anonymous shared their hardships.

“I had to move out for my house because I could not keep up with the repayments anymore. I have been forced to do garden work for people to survive,” one employee, who has worked for the company for 17 years, said. Another employee said:

“Life has been hard for me and my family. We were initially relying on Ters money, and that money was not enough for school fees for the kids. All my policies lapsed as if I have never worked in my life.” SAA’s subsidiaries have been on their knees for years. The subsidiaries, SAA Technical (SAAT), Mango and Air Chefs received just short of R1-billion of a total of R2.7-billion approved by parliament to be re-allocated from the R10.5-billion earmarked for SAA’s business rescue plan.

A sum of R784-million was allocated for SAA Technical, R107-million for Air Chefs and R100-million for Mango. Retrenchments processes are also underway at SAAT and Air Chefs.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the plight of workers at Air Chefs was due to poor decisions by the Department of Public Enterprises and how it managed SAA’s business rescue process.

“The board of Air Chefs will not unlock the R107-million it was allocated because they say they have embarked on an internal audit. The only solution is for the board to complete its processes faster so to pay employees what is due to them,” she said. Air Chefs did not respond to questions.

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