World, Africa

South African Airways strike continues, grounds flights

Strike sparked after airline announced plans to retrench nearly 1,000 workers amid insufficient revenue challenge

Hassan Isilow   | 19.11.2019
South African Airways strike continues, grounds flights

JOHANNESBURG

A strike by disgruntled employees of South Africa's national flag carrier South African Airways (SAA) continued for a fifth day on Tuesday forcing domestic flights to remain grounded.

On Monday the airline said in a statement it is pleased to announce its intention to resume flights to six destinations on the African continent, including Accra, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo, Windhoek and Harare, with effect from Tuesday, Nov. 19, while its domestic flights, popular in the country, would remain grounded due to the strike.

The airline continues to work with its partner airlines, Mango and SA Airlink, to re-book all customers traveling on domestic services for Nov. 19-20, it added.

"Once again, we apologize for all the inconvenience it [the strike] caused. We continue discussions with the employees and remain committed to reach a prompt resolution in the best interests of all parties," said Philip Saunders, SAA’s chief commercial officer.

On Nov. 15, the airline, which flies to nearly all global destinations, announced in a statement the cancellation of all flights for two days (Nov. 15-16) after the South African Cabin Crew Association and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) announced their members will embark on industrial action starting from Friday morning.

Workers Union NUMSA, which is leading the strike at airports, wants the airline to stop planned retrenchment which could see almost 1,000 jobs lost.

The flag carrier said it faces a number of challenges that were forcing it to reduce staff, including insufficient revenue and cash generation in relation to operation costs, aging fleet which is expensive to maintain, and its fuel inefficiency making it hard to compete in the market.

Trade unions have also been demanding the airline to put in place a three-year guarantee of job security to its more than 3,000 union members -- including cabin-crew members, technical and other airport staff. The workers also want a salary raise of 8%, despite the airline offering them a 5.9% rise.

According to local media, wage negotiations between the airline and trade unions deadlocked again over the weekend.

On Monday, the airline thanked its staff who had accepted to work on a few regional flights that resumed on Tuesday, and said: ''SAA would like to record its appreciation for those staff deciding to work despite receiving threats and intimidation from the unions. It is clear that SAA’s people are increasingly determined to put our customers first".

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