SAA, unions reach wage deal - if funds are available

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SAA and unions the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association have reached an agreement, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration announced on Friday. 

Following an eight-day strike that cost the airline some R50m per day, resulted in cancelled flights and left employees fearing financial losses from a no-work no-pay policy, the CCMA announced that the wage dispute had been resolved.

"The CCMA is pleased to announce that the wage dispute between South African Airways (SAA) and the unions SACCA and NUMSA, has been resolved. The mediated process that was re-convened on Wednesday, 20 November 2019, resulted in an agreement being signed at midday today, 22 November 2019," it said.

The details of the deal were not immediately announced. In a statement, SAA later confirmed that the parties agreed to an increase of 5.9% on total cost of employment retrospective to 1 April 2019, which will be paid in the February 2020 payroll. This would be subject to availability of funding, SAA said. 

The back payment for the first six months would be paid in March 2020, with the remaining four months paid in April 2020. 

The salary increase and back pay would be subject to funds being obtained by SAA for such purposes and being available during February 2020, March 2020 and April 2020, "as the case may be", the national carrier added. 

Additionally, SAA said, the Section 189a retrenchment process would be deferred to January 2020, but the deferment would only apply to the bargaining unit. The process would continue for SAA management, with the next consultation scheduled for November 25. 

Lastly, a task team would be established to identify and consider cost-saving initiatives, insourcing and contracts. This was in a bid to help make funds available for the wage increases, the unions said later. 

The CCMA would continue to provide post-dispute support to the parties, it said, "in order assist them to work through some of the identified underlying issues and challenges. This is important for building workplace relations for labour peace".

The airline last week said it would have to do away with 944 jobs, which prompted Numsa and Sacca to embark on the strike. On Thursday, SAA confirmed there would be a delay in paying salaries for November. 

* This article was updated during the course of the day to reflect additional details as they became available

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