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Solidarity issues strike notice to low-cost airline Mango

24 January 2014 - 16:41 By Sapa

Low-cost airline Mango has been issued with a strike notice by labour union Solidarity after wage negotiations reached a deadlock, the union said on Friday.

"Solidarity will now meet with its members to decide on a way forward. The trade union wants to try to avoid a strike," spokesman Marius Croucamp said in a statement.

The dispute arose from a 2011 agreement where Mango gave a written undertaking to bring its pilots' pay in line with that of other low-cost carriers (LCC) by 2014.

The strike notice was issued on Wednesday. Mango confirmed on Friday that it had received Solidarity's notice.

"The union proffers that its application follows a deadlock in negotiations, despite Mango fully complying with the existing salary agreements with the pilot body, reached in 2011 and 2012," airline spokesman Hein Kaizer said in a statement.

This was among other agreements to bring Mango's pilot salaries in line with those of other domestic LCCs over a three-year period, by the end of 2014.

"Mango salaries are already comparable to those of carriers such as SA Airlink, SA Express and pending new LCC entrants into the South African market," he said.

Salaries logically trailed that of SA Airways and Comair, which both carried international, full service, premium brands.

Croucamp said Mango and the union signed a three-year wage agreement in 2012 giving effect to an agreement made in 2011.

"The 2012 agreement included guaranteed minimum increases for 2012, 2013 and 2014," he said.

"A further clause stated that, should the other airlines give their pilots increases during the three-year period, the parties would review Mango's agreed upon increases in order to maintain parity."

He said that last year Solidarity approached Mango in good faith for such a review. However, the airline violated the spirit of the agreement by referring the review clause to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Mango sought to get the review clause rescinded based on a technicality, which undermined labour stability at the airline, Croucamp said.

"Mango's sudden swing is in gross contempt of the parity ideal of the 2011 agreement," he said.

The CCMA rescinded the review clause, though it also recommended the airline and Solidarity should still enter into negotiations on how to achieve parity among low cost airlines.

"Solidarity has attempted to enter into such negotiations with Mango but without success," said Croucamp.

"As a result, the trade union on November 4, 2013 referred a dispute to the CCMA."

The CCMA compelled Mango to continue negotiations with Solidarity, and these took place last Friday, and on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The increase Mango is offering at the moment would mean that its pilots would still earn approximately 16 percent less than their peers at the other low-cost airlines," said Croucamp.

"This is in breach of the parity principle in the 2011 agreement which still applies."

Kaizer said Mango had and would continue to honour its side of the salary agreements.

"We expected our union-led pilot body to do the same. It is unfortunate that talks have broken down to the current state of affairs," he said.

"While Mango has grown over the past 18 months, it has done so in a contracting market; and while it has operated profitably during the past fiscal year, erosion of success is easily monetised by blue-sky wage demands."

The airline already shared good fortune with its employees via a variable pay system that rewards staff during profitable periods, he said. The pilot body elected to resign from this scheme in 2012, he said.

"Should industrial action take place, Mango has contingency plans ready to manage any possible disruption to our service."

Kaizer said low-cost airline salaries were universally graded differently to full service carries

Mango employed 101 pilots at four airports in Johannesburg, Lanseria, Cape Town, and Durban. Around 90 percent of Mango pilots were members of Solidarity, Kaizer said.