SAA, Prasa workers go on strike

2013-01-18 11:14

National Transport Movement (NTM) members at the national airline and the state-owned rail agency started a strike today, officials said.

NTM deputy general secretary Liver Mngomezulu said both the South African Airways (SAA) and Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) were refusing to recognise them as a union.

Mngomezulu said about 220 SAA workers had gathered at the airline’s head offices in Johannesburg at 8am.

“We are expecting all 1 300 of our members to take part in the picketing. We just had minor delays because of the rain, but we should all be here by around 10am,” he said. “Members of rival unions have also said they will join us.”

On Monday, SAA reported it was prepared for the strike and had put in place contingency plans to ensure minimal disruptions. The airline has about 11 000 employees.

Mngomezulu said he was certain the strike would cause flight disruptions.

“(The) last time we embarked on a two-hour strike, several flights were delayed and cancelled, so we are expecting even more to happen today. We will be here the whole day and we will stay here until the SAA management decides to recognise us,” he said.

The NTM has alleged that SAA management refused to recognise it as a workers’ representative even though it had surpassed the number of candidates needed for them to be validated.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali dismissed NTM’s claim in a statement yesterday. “NTM relies on a claim that its membership is more than 1 300. Their membership is inclusive of employee categories that are not provided for in the bargaining forum constitution.”

In the railway industry, NTM claims a 4 000 membership at Prasa.

Mngomezulu said he was expecting all of the members to take part in protests at the agency’s head office in Braamfontein and at another protest in Bosman, Pretoria, today.

Prasa spokesperson Lillian Mofokeng said the agency was not expecting any disruptions to train operations. “Out of our 5 600 employees in Gauteng, only 51 haven’t reported for duty this morning.”

She explained that NTM needed to follow the right channels in order to have the union recognised. “They need to have a certain number of members before they can be recognised. They report that they do have these numbers, but we need to first verify these claims.”

Mngomezulu accused Prasa of deducting money from their union members for another union’s membership.

“They are deducting our people’s subscription for rival unions. That is unacceptable.”

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