Employees of South African state-owned airlines SA Express, who have not been paid since February, have started crowdfunding among one another and family members to feed their colleagues.
All SA Express flights have been grounded since 18 March, before the beginning of the national lockdown. The struggling company was placed on business rescue in February.
At the end of March, in a letter to employees, the business rescue practitioners said they are moving to liquidate the state-owned airline after they were unable to secure additional funding to keep it afloat.
Since then, the airline’s employees started raising funds to support colleagues who are going hungry, says a senior SA Express employee, speaking to Business Insider, under the condition of anonymity.
He says a WhatsApp group with most of the airline’s 600 employees was started in April. The group has been distributing Shoprite vouchers since then.
To date, over 81 vouchers amounting to over R40,000, have been offered amongst those in the group in an effort to aid each other.
“A colleague phoned on a Sunday crying, saying he was unable to feed his children, and we knew we had to do something,” the SA Express employee says.
“We have colleagues who just had babies who have no nappies or milk. People WhatsApp every day saying their electricity has been put off. It’s all heartbreaking and completely unfair.”
He says that the unemployment insurance fund (UIF) payout expected at the end of April will not be nearly enough to feed colleagues and pay for expenses such as schooling.
On top of this, the employee says SA Express workers have also lost their medical aid coverage after it emerged that the airline failed to pay contributions. “We have people on chronic medication who can no longer get the medicine they need – what must they do now?”
Business Insider reports that a letter from the airline dated 20 April, shows that SA Express also failed to pay its pension contributions for the past two months and that contributions for accident and funeral insurance have also halted.
SA Express has, however, reached an interim agreement with Discovery and Betmed to restore medical coverage at the end of April during the coronavirus outbreak period.
Edited by Luis Monzon
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