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SAA cancels flights as employees plan strike over wages

Unions say strike indefinite.

South African Airways (SAA) has cancelled flights scheduled for Friday and Saturday because of a pending strike by a majority of employees over a wage dispute and the state-run carrier’s plans to cut jobs.

The airline had hoped to avert the walkout with a revised wage offer but unions rejected it in talks on Thursday.

SAA has failed to turn a profit since 2011 while relying on state bailouts to fund a growing financing gap.

The airline is also without a permanent chief executive and has yet to file annual results for the two most recent financial years because of concerns about its viability as a business.

Unions representing about 3 000 of its 5 000-member workforce said on Wednesday that cabin crew and other workers would strike over wages and plans to cut more than 900 jobs.

The carrier said on Wednesday it might never recover if the strike by the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), went ahead. It has said the strike would cost it an estimated R50 million a day.

Unions are demanding an immediate 8% salary hike, SAA said on Thursday it would offer a 5.9% increase from April when it hopes to have secured the necessary funding.

“As we continue to prepare for the strike tomorrow, we are hopeful that we will receive positive feedback from management on the issues that we have raised,” Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told reporters.

Indefinite strike 

Only flights directly operated by SAA would be affected. Flights by subsidiaries Mango, SA Express and SA Air Link, as well as those of private operators, would not be affected, SAA said.

“The strike is an indefinite strike until management gives in to our demands,” Hlubi-Majola said.

Unions said the strike would begin at 4 am on Friday. They are calling on SAA’s check-in, ticket sales, head office, technical staff and ground staff to take part.

Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi, president of Sacca, said the new offer was unacceptable.

“They really need to get serious, 5.9% simply won’t cut it,” Nsibanyoni-Mugambi added.

SAA flies around 6.8 million passengers annually to six continents with routes to New York, London and Hong Kong among its eight international destinations.

Two other unions at South African Airways (SAA) representing about 2 500 employees mostly in technical and mid-management jobs, said they would go to the labour court to block the state airline’s plan to cut jobs.

Read: SAA on collision course with trade unions in a fight for survival

“The timing was not good at all. How can you issue Section 189 (redundancy) notices while you are busy in a wage dispute. It’s bad faith bargaining for SAA to come with this threat,” said Frank Mackenzie, president of union AUSA.

LISTEN: Nompu Siziba talks to Jannie Rossouw, head of the School of Economic and Business Sciences at Wits University, on whether this is the beginning of the end for SAA:

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CR, if you’re savvy you’ll let the unions deliver the final “coup de grace” to SAA. This way this airline farce ends, no more bail-outs from the fiscus will be required and you can blame the unions for SAA’s demise.

Let this be the beginning of the end for SAA.
Let’s hope that the strike has the effect that SAA will be unable to recover – as the unions have been warned, and that no further bailouts follow.
My message to the unions is therefore – please go ahead with the strike.

On principle I NEVER fly this airline. Long may it not last!

Can we hope that all SAA’s flights will now be cancelled indefinitely?

Much depends on this strike. If the govt crumbles, the Socialistic unions will further destroy SA Inc. with their unreasonable demands. But if SAA goes down, no great loss to the country, and a real bloody nose for the unions who will then be blamed – quite correctly – for destroying SAA.

Time for Cyril and Pravin to stop bailing out SAA.

It’s time for the unions to come out of their trance and realise that the pot is empty.

No point in keeping this vampire of an organisation going.

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