Unions serve SAA with notice of sympathy strike at inflight catering arm

As the strike at SAA entered its sixth day on Wednesday, negotiations between two unions and the airline's leadership remained deadlocked over the question of wage increases. 

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 demand that more workers be insourced. 

Addressing hundreds of workers clad in union regalia in Kempton Park on Wednesday morning, Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the unions had issued SAA with a notice to embark on a secondary strike at Air Chefs, which provides inflight catering for SAA. 

"As of yesterday [Tuesday], we served them with a notice of intent to embark on a secondary [strike] at Air Chefs which is going to affect a lot of airlines. We are at war and are fighting for survival," she said. 

This comes a day after Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan met with unions at their request. In a statement, the minster said that while government is committed to saving the airline, further bailouts are out of the question. 

Hlubi-Majola said that despite negotiations, the two sides were "back where we were last week".

"They are offering 5.9% and it is unacceptable to our members. We are continuing with the strike," she said. "If they are not committed to saving this airline we are going to do everything in our power."

She said workers were not only striking for a wage increase, but also to save the airline from corruption.

“Workers will no longer accept being sacrificial lambs for the corruption of management,” she said.        

SAA, which has had to ground a number of domestic and regional flights due to the industrial action, has said it cannot afford to the 8% wage increase demanded by unions.

The airline announced on Thursday that it intended to resume "selected flights" from Johannesburg to Cape Town, Durban and Victoria Falls.  

"Once again, we apologise to all our passengers for all the inconvenience caused. We are continuing discussions with labour and remain committed to reach a prompt resolution in the best interests of all parties,” said Philip Saunders, SAA’s chief commercial officer in a statement. 

Negotiations are continuing. 


- Additional reporting by Jan Cronje. 

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