Irvin Jim applauds striking SAA workers for ‘making history’

Operations have come to a halt as members Numsa and Sacca are picketing for a second day on Saturday, after talks with the employer deadlocked.

SAA workers strike, bringing operations OR Tambo International Airport to a standstill. Picture: Numsa Twitter

JOHANNESBURG – South African Airways (SAA) and unions are locked in a meeting facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for the latest round of wage negotiations and other related matters.

Operations at the embattled airline are at a halt after it decided to ground all flights due to an ongoing employee strike.

Members of the National Union for Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) are picketing for a second day on Saturday, after talks with the employer deadlocked.

Employees are demanding a wage increase of 8% while the national carrier has so far offered a 5.9% hike.

SAA lost an estimated R52 million on Friday as a result of flights being cancelled.

Numsa's Irvin Jim has applauded employees for being steadfast in their demands.

“Both Numsa and Sacca members, and workers from technical and the rest of SAA, we want to applaud them for remaining united and we think that they are making history.”

At the same time, Numsa and Sacca say they will appeal to non-striking workers to join them if South African Airways refuses to give in to their demands.

SAA is operating with skeleton staff as most of its workforce at various airports have downed tools.

The strike has forced the state-owned airline to cancel most flights for the next three days.

The unions say they will attend Saturday's negotiations with SAA at the CCMA as they are determined to end the strike.

While the airline may be losing millions daily, as operations are shut down, workers are also not be being paid.

Numsa's Phakamile Hlubi-Majola says it's all in their best interests to end the strike.

"They have said themselves that it's R52 million a day, times four! I mean it is much more than what we are demanding in wages. Why don't they just sit with us so that we can negotiate and find a way forward."

Her counterpart at Sacca, Zazi Sibonyoni-Mugambi, says if SAA doesn't improve their offer, they will approach non-striking workers to join.