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SAA announces 6 continental flights to resume from Tuesday amid strike

It said customers travelling on the airline's regional network to Accra, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo, Windhoek and Harare would be rebooked and could expect to be contacted shortly.

Picture: South African Airways

JOHANNESBURG - South African Airways (SAA) said it intended to reinstate six continental flights from Tuesday.

It said customers travelling on the airline's regional network to Accra, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo, Windhoek and Harare would be rebooked and could expect to be contacted shortly.

SAA said all international services were operating as normal.

Flights were cancelled over the weekend after thousands of employees went on strike over wages and the national carrier's plan to restructure.

Striking unions threatened to shut down South Africa’s entire aviation industry on Sunday by extending industrial action beyond state-run South African Airways.

The carrier and unions representing over half of its workforce held negotiations on Saturday that ended without an agreement. By Sunday, both sides were trading threats.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) which called the strike alongside the South African Cabin Crew Association, told journalists it was now consulting with its members at other organisations in the industry on a secondary strike.

“This secondary strike will have the impact of shutting down the entire aviation sector,” she said. Consultations were underway with workers at SAA subsidiaries like Mango Airlines, other airlines like Comair and organisations like the Civil Aviation Authority and Airports Company South Africa.

She also said Numsa had filed an application with the High Court to have the board of SAA Technical, a unit of SAA that provides aircraft maintenance, declared delinquent, and said flights SAA has restarted were unsafe.

SAA’s acting CEO Zuks Ramasia called on the unions to retract statements made with regards to SAA’s safety, saying that otherwise, the airline would consider taking legal action.

Ramasia told a media briefing a secondary strike would hurt South Africa’s competitiveness. “The intent of a secondary strike is to cause disruption, bring all airports to a halt and create huge damage to [the] South African economy,” she said.

The unions’ plan could compound disruption by hitting airlines SAA has relied on to make alternative arrangements for its customers.

Their demands include an 8% wage increase and for outsourced services to be bought back in-house, and they also object to SAA’s plans to axe more than 900 jobs. They say workers are tired of taking the hit for years of management failures.

SAA, which has not made a profit since 2011 and is reliant on government bailouts to survive, says it needs to cut costs. President Cyril Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on turning around a number of ailing state-run firms like SAA that the government has been forced to prop up.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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