BUSINESS MAVERICK

Deadlock: No end in sight to SAA strike as airline says international flights resume

By Ed Stoddard 17 November 2019
Caption
Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told EWN that the union was in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

The South African Airways strike has grounded most of its scheduled flights. Fasten your seatbelts folks, because turbulence is expected. And the final destination is unclear.

SAA said on Sunday that it had managed to reinstate some international flights while the National Union for Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) vowed to intensify its strike.

Numsa and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said in a joint statement that their Sunday meeting with management produced no resolution in the ongoing impasse. International flights were cancelled on Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday morning SAA announced that international flights for Sunday evening would be reinstated.

We are pleased that SAA 222 from OR Tambo International Airport to São Paulo, which was scheduled to operate on Sunday morning, is now airborne en route to Brazil. The return flight from São Paulo to OR Tambo International Airport is expected to operate as scheduled and arrive back in Johannesburg on Monday morning,” SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali was quoted as saying.

The airline said there were five international departures from OR Tambo International Airport on Sunday 17 November 2019, to New York, London, Frankfurt, Munich and Washington DC.

Even as passengers flew across the Atlantic en route to Brazil, news emerged that talks between the two sides had been grounded, with a secondary strike being prepared for take-off.

Numsa is in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation,” Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola was quoted as saying by EWN.

Numsa and the Sacca embarked on the strike on Friday morning. The two sides do not seem that far apart: SAA is offering an above-inflation pay rise of 5.9% against union demands of 8%. But there are other issues at play.

We are fighting against retrenchment, corruption and privatisation,” Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said.

SAA said on Monday 11 November that it had informed “all its 5,146 employees that it is embarking on a restructuring process which may lead to job losses”.

There are about 900 jobs on the line in an SOE that is effectively insolvent after losses amounting to R28-billion over the past 13 years. The government is trying to lure private equity partners in a bid to stem further losses. The Treasury can hardly afford more big bailouts as it struggles to cut spending in the face of rising deficits and a looming Moody’s rating downgrade.

In the meantime, a lot of South Africans will be scrambling this week to change their travel plans. BM

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