Cape Town - Some Skywise employees are distressed because they have not been paid since December.
In a letter dated December 17 (a copy of which is in Fin24's possession), Skywise informed one of its pilots that, due to financial constraints, the airline is unable to make certain financial commitments. The airline blamed the suspension by Airports Company SA (Acsa) for its financial predicament.
The letter states that the person's position has been made redundant and that the employee's services would terminate on January 1 2016 (30 days after the suspension of flights on December 2). The pilot is also informed that in the light of the financial situation, he is "not obliged to continue with services to the company as of December 2 2015".
The letter also states that, should finances become available by January 30 2016, the employee would receive a severance package consisting of a full month's salary for December or a pro-rata amount. Any outstanding leave would also be calculated and paid out, according to the letter.
Skywise admitted to Fin24 that retrenchment letters had been issued to some of its employees on December 17 2015.
"Skywise is currently working with skeleton staff until the new investors are on board. Every employee of Skywise worked very hard. It is unfortunate that we could not pay them in the month of December when they should have been given bonus salaries to celebrate the festive season," Skywise responded.
"Some of the employees are very grieved and some have moved on with new jobs. However, the employees’ retrenchment package is one of the liabilities of Skywise to be paid once the investors are on board."
On Monday Skywise co-chairs Tabassum Qadir and Javed Malik apologised to passengers, employees and suppliers. They pointed out that it has now been 48 days since Acsa suspended its flights. The airline said it was a pity that Acsa could not give them a payment extension of 48 hours at that time.
"This is the eleventh month of Skywise Airline’s journey and things haven’t been smooth. We haven’t lived up to your expectations or to the promise and potential of conquering South African skies. We are committed to re-earning your trust. Accomplishing this will not be easy, but we will put in the hard work needed to get there," said the co-chairs.
They promised to try and refund each affected passenger.
"We can't turn the clock back, we can't undo what has been done, but as we look forward, we would like to start the next step in our journey by compensating the affected and keep saying sorry," they said in a statement.
"Sorry to fellow employees who were retrenched following the suspension of Acsa. (During) the festive season, when employees expected to get bonuses, (they) were only paid a month’s salary. They deserved to receive the minimum retrenchment package from Skywise Airline."
They also apologised to all service providers , "except Acsa".
Skywise said it will go ahead to lodge its case with the Competition Tribunal after the Competition Commission declined to proceed with a complaint.
"Should we win the case, 50% of the damages will be shared between the affected passengers and the employees," said the co-chairs.