SAA plays hardball as strike starts

South African Airways has not increased its wage hike offer to striking unions at the airline, spokesperson Tlali Tlali told Fin24 on Friday morning. The airline, which is technically insolvent, is sticking to its 5.9% offer.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association have rejected the offer and started an unprotected strike on Friday morning.

The airline will apply a “no work no pay” principle to those who participate in the strike.

“Those who participate in the strike action will not be permitted back to work until the strike is over,” Martin Kemp, SAA’s acting general manager for human resources, told Bloomberg. “The rest of the employees who report for duty will be allowed to work.”

The strike forced the cancellation of almost SAA flights on Friday and Saturday. On Friday morning, SAA check-in terminals at airports were empty, and there was a small group of picketers outside Cape Town international airport. 

Meanwhile, a poll of more than 48,000 views on News24 shows that only 5% opposed the retrenchments at SAA. Some 77% of the participants want government to get rid of SAA.

SAA acting CEO Zuks Ramasia, said earlier in the week that the airline offered the unions a 5.9% salary increase subject to the availability of funds.

“The offer remains at 5.9%, which is what we presented. The unions came back and rejected it. There are only amendments as far as the particulars of payment arrangements are concerned,” said Tlali.

Unions want an increase of 8% across-the-board wage, job security for at least three years, and the in-sourcing of more staff. 

This week the company announced that almost a fifth of its workforce may be retrenched. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union plans to interdict against plans to retrench staff.

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