South African Airways (SAA) has cancelled nearly all its domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for Friday, 15 November and Saturday, 16 November 2019. The airline’s key objective is to minimise the impact of disruptions for its customers. Acting CEO, Zuks Ramasia, said that the strike endangers the future of the airline and threatens jobs.
The cancellations follow an announcement by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) that their members will embark on industrial action from Friday morning. This is notwithstanding SAA’s repeated overtures to the unions to acknowledge the severity of the current situation facing the airline.
“We are putting our customers first and regret the inevitable inconvenience that these cancellations may cause our customers. However, by acting proactively SAA can certainly help customers find alternatives,” said Tlali Tlali, SAA Spokesperson.
“Unless alternative arrangements are in place, customers are requested not to go to their departure airports during the disruption as SAA will be unable to provide any assistance. Information on the status of our flights will be regularly updated on our website,” said Tlali.
Only flights operated by South African Airways will be affected. All flights operated on partner airlines, including SA Express, Mango, SA Airlink and all codeshare partners, including flights operated by our Star Alliance partner airlines will not be affected. These flights can be identified by their flight numbers and will operate as normal: SA 1000 – 1999, SA 2000 – 2999, SA 7000 – 7999 and SA 8000 to 8999.
SAA will operate flights from selected outstations on Friday 15 November 2019 back to SAA’s base, OR Tambo International Airport.
Regional flights, which will operate on Friday morning, will return from Maputo (SA147), Lusaka (SA067), Harare (SA025), Windhoek (SA073), and Accra (SA210).
International flights, which will operate on Friday evening, will return from Frankfurt (SA261), New York (SA204), Munich (SA265), Hong Kong (SA287), Perth (SA281), Washington (SA210) and London (SA235).
The airline will assess the situation on an ongoing basis and Customers will be kept informed of all operational developments on a daily basis.
Tlali stated that, during the negotiations with the unions, SAA presented a revised offer for employees delivering a 5.9% increase subject to the availability of funds from lenders. NUMSA and SACCA are demanding an 8% increase.
National Transport Movement (NTM) has not stated whether their members will embark on a strike or not.
SAA attempted to dissuade the unions from embarking on industrial action by providing firm commitment dates to SAA’s offer of 5.9%. Discussions are continuing to resolve the wage matter at the time of issuing the statement.
SAA will spare no effort to work jointly with the labour unions to find solutions that accommodate the employee demands, safeguard the business and return operations to normal.
Endangering the future of the airline
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.