Don't destroy your own jobs, committee chair warns striking SAA unions

The chairperson of Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises has condemned unions striking at South African Airways for calling the safety of the national carrier's weekend operations into question, and urged them to come to the table and seek a solution to the labour impasse.

The committee was responding to a weekend announcement by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association, who said that the safety of passengers could not be guaranteed because technicians who sign off on flights and other technical support staff were on strike. 

On Friday the two unions went on strike after the flag carrier said it would potentially have to cut 944 jobs. Unions are also demanding an increase of 8%, while management is offering 5.9%.

SAA interim CEO Zukisa Ramasia has denied the unions' claims, saying the safety and security of passengers and staff is of paramount importance to the airline.

The chairperson of the oversight committee on public enterprises, Khaya Magaxa, took a dim view of unions calling SAA's operational safety into question.

"While the committee supports the rights of employees to strike within the confines of labour laws, it is irresponsible for the unions to make comments that the flights will be operated by short-term contracted personnel without the requisite experience," he said.

Magaxa urged SAA management and unions to negotiate and find a solution to avert a protracted strike.

"The committee would like to appeal to workers not to damage and destroy SAA's credibility. If the employees continue down the path of destruction, this will lead to the destruction of jobs that we seek to protect and increase," Magaxa said.

The flag carrier, which has said it is losing about R52m per day due to the strike, has scheduled a media briefing for Tuesday. 

* Correction: This article was update to clarify that the comments were made by the chairperson of the oversight committee on public enterprises, Khaya Magaxa, and not by Parliament itself. 

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