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Full-on aviation strike will cause 'huge damage' to economy: acting SAA CEO

17 November 2019 - 19:10 By TimesLIVE
SAA has cancelled domestic and regional flights as the strike drags on. File photo.
SAA has cancelled domestic and regional flights as the strike drags on. File photo.
Image: Getty Images

SA Airways (SAA) acting CEO Zuks Ramasia said calls by unions for a secondary aviation strike would "create huge damage to the South African economy".

Addressing an urgent media briefing on Sunday evening, she also warned unions to "retract the untruthful and unfounded allegations that flying the national carrier is in any way unsafe.

"If they fail to do so, we will consider taking legal action. We would never put our long established reputation at risk," she said.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said earlier on Sunday they were consulting workers at other airlines, security companies, airline catering companies and ground handling services for a secondary strike in aviation. 

The unions met SAA management on Saturday in a bid to resolve an impasse in negotiations on wages and other issues but said the parties could not “find one another” and called for the strike to intensify.

Ramasia said a full-on aviation strike would "cause disruption, bring all airport operations to a halt and create huge damage to the South African economy."

She also condemned the intimidation of SAA employees who had opted to work during the strike.

"Let us be clear. Describing some of our employees as ‘traitors’ and threatening that 'we know where you are' will not be tolerated. We will always protect our employees’ right to decide for themselves and serve our customers," she said.

"Intimidation will not be tolerated by SAA," she warned, adding that security had been tightened at airports in collaboration with police.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said earlier in the day that a flight to São Paulo, Brazil, took off as the airline began reinstating international flights.

Tlali said five other international departures from OR Tambo International Airport scheduled on Sunday were to New York, London, Frankfurt, Munich and Washington DC via Accra.

The first departures from OR Tambo International Airport to Perth and Hong Kong were  expected to operate as scheduled from Monday.

Passengers were advised to report to their departure airport as normal when in possession of a confirmed itinerary.

SAA’s domestic and regional flights remain cancelled.