Union members currently embarking on a strike stand to lose their income after the airways announced a “no work no pay principle”.
During a media briefing on Tuesday, South African Airways acting CEO Zukisa Ramasia said the airline was enforcing the “no work no pay principle which will lead to a loss of salaries for striking employees”.
“An employee who takes part in the strike for seven days could take about four months to recover the financial losses, if they keep on going,” she said.
With the strike now in its fifth day, Ramasia said that more workers had taken the decision to resume their duties despite the ongoing strike.
“A growing number of our employees are not supporting the strike. This is evident in the increasing number of flights that are now operational,” she said.
“Today we are resuming flights to six destinations on the African continent, which are to Accra, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo, Windhoek and Harare.”
On Friday SAA spokesperson Tladi Tladi had said the entity would continue to ground flights until Monday after initially cancelling all domestic, regional and international flights due to the industrial action by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca).
“SAA is on the road to recovery,” Ramaisa said during the media briefing.
“Flight attendants and ground crew are back at work.”
The protest, which the unions have termed “the mother of all strikes” began last Friday, after the state-owned-entity and the two unions were, according to Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, “deadlocked on the issues of wages for more than two weeks”.
It was an issue Ramasia said the airline could not resolve immediately due to financial difficulties.
“We cannot afford the unions’ desired financial increment because of financial difficulties,” she said.
“Numsa and Sacca are demanding an 8% increase and as SAA we are only able to give a 5.9% increase and that would only be from March 2020.
“That is what we can afford as things stand now.”
But the unions pointed out last week that pilots at SAA recently received a 5.9% wage increase.
The unions’ fury at SAA was exacerbated when the company “unilaterally decided” that it would go through a restructuring process that would see more than 900 of its employees retrenched.
A move the unions say “was made without following proper consultative procedures”.
“This is why it was a shock for us that, following our meeting with them, a statement was released about restructuring. Basically they unilaterally decided to embark on this process without consultation and we are finding out like everyone else through the media,” Hlubi-Majola told City Press at the time.
On the issue of wages, the unions were adamant that they would not accept anything less than an 8% increase from SAA.
According to Ramasia, SAA and the two unions were to meet again this afternoon in an effort to reach an “amicable agreement”.
SAA chief commercial officer Philip Saunders said more than 11 000 passengers a day were affected by the protest action over the past five days.
“As SAA we have worked hard to try and contain this situation. We have made sure to under-promise and over-deliver,” he said.
“SAA has acted responsibly at every single step of the situation and the unions should share the same sense of responsibility.”
Saunders’s sentiment came at the backdrop of comments made by unions about the safety or lack thereof of SAA, which he and Ramasia have labelled as reckless and aim to sabotage the national carrier.
“Legal action will be taken against them regarding the untrue statement made regarding the safety of the airline,” Ramasia said.
She added that the airline had also approached the labour court to “interdict additional demands made by the two unions, which were not part of the initial dispute”.