Gordhan: Govt committed to saving SAA, but there's no room for further bailouts

Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan has said that no further financial resources can be advanced to cash-strapped flag carrier SAA, after meeting with representatives of striking unions on Tuesday.

Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association have been on strike since Friday over wages, possible job cuts and the insourcing of employees. 

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon Gordhan said the government is facing "severe fiscal constraints".

"Even if there were funds available, there is no legal mechanism to provide funding to SAA in the current year."

The minister said the meetings, held at the request of the unions, were a opportunity for an "open and frank exchange of information". 

He added that the government is committed to saving the airline, and urged the unions to work with the airline’s management to "find a speedy resolution to the impasse". 

While the two unions are demanding an 8% pay increase, SAA leadership has said it can only offer a 5.9% increase from 2020. The two unions also rejected a restructuring plan which would see the flag carrier cut up to 944 jobs. Gordhan said the meetings did not delve into as the "intricacies of the salary negotiations in detail", as the negotiations are being handled by the SAA.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 earlier on Tuesday afternoon that the unions gave the department a "framework for ending the strike and a strategy to save SAA and recover its finances". 

Earlier on Tuesday, SAA leadership briefed the media about the status of negotiations with striking workers and the impact the industrial action. 

SAA acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, told journalists that while negotiations between unions and SAA are were ongoing, unions had added additional demands beyond their initial demand for an 8% wage increase. She said the airline had  approached the labour court over both these demands and the unions’ alleged non-compliance with picketing rules.

She urged striking workers to return to work for the sake of the airline's customers and to ensure its future. 

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