South Africa

Public Enterprises minister to meet striking unions at South Africa’s SAA

By Reuters 19 November 2019
Caption
Striking South African Airways (SAA) workers protest at an entrance to Cape Town International Airport, South Africa 18 November 2019. South African Airways (SAA) flights remain grounded following four days of strike action. Thousands of SAA employees have downed tools across South Africa in an indefinite industrial action protesting against mass retrenchments and demanding wage increases as the airline struggles to find a resolution with unions and has to deal with its crippled finances. SAA Acting chief executive Zuks Ramasia has said " SAA?s balance sheet has historically been weak and remains so despite recent substantial capital injections from the government. Our continued losses and reliance on government guarantees to borrow money from lenders have increased the interest costs, which impacts the operating cost of the business.? EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 19 (Reuters) - South Africa's Public Enterprises minister will meet unions striking at its state-owned airline on Tuesday in an effort to resolve a strike over wages at the embattled South African Airways (SAA) that has entered its fifth day.

State-owned SAA has cancelled hundreds of flights since the strike began on Friday, saying the stoppage is costing 50 million rand ($3.36 million) per day and jeopardising talks with lenders.

Irvin Jim, General Secretary for the National Union for Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), which called the strike alongside the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), said the unions would meet with Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan on Tuesday to discuss the strike.

SACCA’s deputy president Christopher Shabangu also confirmed the meeting saying it was “trying to find a solution to ending the strike”.

The spokesman to minister Gordhan could not be reached for comment.

The strike has cast doubt on the survival of the airline, which hasn’t turned a profit since 2011 and is reliant on state bailouts.

SAA said on Monday its international flights were operating on schedule while some domestic passengers would face more cancellations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The unions have also threatened to shut down the entire aviation industry in Africa’s most industrialized nation by extending industrial action beyond state-run airline.

The SAA is expected to give updates on the strike at 1100 GMT on Tuesday.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg, editing by Louise Heavens.

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