We will keep customers flying high over Easter weekend despite looming strike – Comair

Comair will have contingency plans in place to prevent a strike by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA from grounding passengers this Easter weekend, executive director in the company's airline division, Wrenelle Stander, told Fin24 on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, Numsa served Comair with notice of intention to strike over salary discrepancies that the company has been working to resolve for months. The union plans to start striking on Thursday afternoon.

The company, which operates British Airways and kulula.com in South Africa, will approach the Labour Court on the same day in a bid to prevent the strike.

However, Stander said the company had made plans to allow operations to continue for travellers.

"There is a potential strike which could start tomorrow after one o’clock. As an organisation we will try to maintain operations. While we respect the union’s right to strike, we will have contingency plans," said Stander.

Salary 'anomalies'

Stander said Comair has communicated with staff and passengers to ensure that all hands remain on deck should an interdict against the strike be dismissed.

"Employees from across the Comair business have agreed to assist. Staff have agreed to cancel their leave to ease the impact. We urge customers to book online and be available for travel two hours ahead of time and at time of departure directly to security gates," Stander said.

She told Fin24 that Numsa was only willing to discuss normalising salaries across staff by increasing the salaries of the entire bargaining group to the highest outlier in the company. She said doing this would be unsustainable for the company going forward.

"The dispute relates to the salary anomalies. As an organisation we recognise the anomalies and are in the process of resolving that. Where we disagree is that Comair believes [the approach should be] arbitration. Numsa believes that the recourse is industrial action," said Stander.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told Fin24 that a considerable number of Comair ground staff were represented by Numsa and that the company would feel the blow of a strike.

"We have proposed every wage gap of less than R1 000 should be bridged immediately, all wage gaps between R1000 - R2000 should be bridged within 12-month period, and all wage gaps of more than R5000 should be bridged within a three-year period," a statement from Numsa said.

According to Numsa, there are approximately 650 workers in the bargaining unit, at least 400 of which are Numsa members. Just over 700 of Comair’s 2 200 airport ground staff are Numsa members, according to the company.

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