JOHANNESBURG. 13 November 2019. As unions announced they will embark on industrial action from Friday, South African Airways (SAA) has reiterated that any strike endangers the future of the airline and threatens jobs.
“We have noted with concern a call for a strike by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to begin on Friday. We have offered employees, through their unions, a 5.9% salary increase subject to the availability of funds,” said Acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia.
“We have made repeated overtures to the unions to acknowledge the severity of the situation in which we find ourselves in and to work hand in hand with us to try and avert a worsening situation,” said Ramasia.
“The strike is going to exacerbate rather than ameliorate our problem, and will result in a set of circumstances from which there may well be no recovery,” she said.
Ramasia said during the negotiations with NUMSA, SACCA and the National Transport Movement (NTM), the airline offered employees a 5.9% increase subject to the availability of funds from lenders. NUMSA and SACCA are demanding an 8% increase.
The NTM has not stated whether their members will embark on a strike or not.
“The unions and all employees should be mindful of the current financial constraints the company is facing. Wage demands have to be tested on the basis of affordability and sustainability,” said Ramasia.
“The recognised unions are aware that our financial challenges are caused by a number of factors, including a severely distressed global airline industry, which has resulted in numerous airlines retrenching staff, embarking on cost-reduction programmes, implementing wage freezes, reducing operations, or even closing down.”
Responding to the 5.9% salary increase for pilots often touted by the unions, Ramasia said: “It should be noted that the pilots have a 5-year salary agreement. SAA went to arbitration in a bid to avoid a salary increase of 5.9% as a result of the financial position of the company, but the arbitrator found in the pilots’ favour. The company is therefore legally compelled to comply with such an award.
“Like other airlines, SAA is under severe financial pressure. At the moment, our costs are higher than our revenue, and the sooner we address that, the better for the immediate survival of the company.
“The SAA leadership team remains optimistic that, with the resolute commitment from all management, employees and recognised unions, the airline could in future be profitable to better respond to employees’ interests, whilst preserving the existence of the airline,” said Ramasia.