From job cuts to trade unions standing firm: Five must-read stories on embattled SAA

20 November 2019 - 06:51 By Cebelihle Bhengu
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SAA employees continue to strike over wage increases.
SAA employees continue to strike over wage increases.
Image: SAA

It isn't 100% back to business for SA Airways (SAA). Its employees continue to protest against possible job cuts and are demanding an 8% salary increase. On Tuesday, the strike entered its fifth day and while the company's management announced the return to work of some of its employees, others continue with the stay away.

Here are five must-read stories on the embattled national carrier

Numsa, Sacca: “We will ground the airline”

Trade unions the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) announced on November 13 that they would ground SAA flights, to oppose possible job cuts. This followed an announcement by SAA that about 1,000 employees could be affected by a restructuring process. 

Sacca president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi lamented the unfair treatment endured by union members, saying they were denied salary hikes despite getting paid less than pilots. Nsibanyoni-Mugambi also blamed management for the chaos and attributed the state of the company to corruption.

SAA, Satawu court battle

The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) threatened to take the airline to the labour court to oppose the looming retrenchments and force it to comply with section 189 of the labour relations act. The section stipulates that trade unions and employees must be consulted should an employer consider job cuts. Union spokesperson Zanele Sabela said SAA had not consulted with the union and was, therefore, in breach of the act.

SAA acting CEO: “Strike will damage the economy”

SAA acting CEO Zuks Ramasia cautioned employees and trade unions against the strike, saying it would have a detrimental effect on the country's economy. This followed failure by the company and trade unions to reach an agreement, which saw the employees resort to a strike. Ramasia also warned trade unions against spreading “falsehood” that SAA flights were unsafe.

Pravin Gordhan, unions seek solution 

As the strike entered day five, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan was set to meet the unions to discuss the issue of wage increases. Numsa's general secretary Irvin Jim and Sacca deputy president Christopher Shabangu confirmed that both parties sought to “find the solution to ending the strike”. 

“SAA on the road to recovery”: SAA acting CEO 

By Tuesday, the airline had resumed flights to Accra in Ghana, Maputo in Mozambique and Lagos in Nigeria, among other regions. Ramasia said this meant the company was on the “road to recovery”. He also announced that more employees had returned to work and that the company would be heading to the labour court to force the unions not to make any more demands. The airline offered employees a 5.9% increase.

“We are going to approach the labour court to interdict demands which were not part of the initial dispute, because they are not procedural or compliant with the picketing rules.”

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