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SAA threatens legal action as strike continues

Two trade unions leading the industrial action claim the national carrier has brought in inexperienced staff to run operations while the strike progresses.

Numsa and South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) members picket at the SAA Airways Park in Kempton Park on 15 November 2019. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - South African Airways (SAA) has threatened legal action as a paralysing strike continues.

On Friday, thousands of SAA employees downed tools in an indefinite industrial action primarily to protest mass retrenchments.

They're also demanding better pay after negotiations recently broke down.

The two trade unions leading the industrial action claimed that the national carrier had brought in inexperienced staff to run operations during the strike.

SAA CEO Zukisa Ramasia said these claims were untrue.

“It’s important that they retract this. We cannot put our long-established reputation at risk. We care about safety and nobody will make us waver from this.”

There were now fears of a secondary strike.

“A secondary strike will affect the competitivity of the South African economy as a whole. It will ground aviation and bring it to a halt.”

Meanwhile, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was calling on the national government to intervene in their wage dispute with SAA.

Workers have been on strike for four days, demanding an 8% wage increase while SAA is offering 5.9%. The strike has led to the cancellation of some international and local flights.

Over the weekend, Numsa and SAA management met at the CCMA in an attempt to resolve the industrial action, which the airline said had resulted in the loss of more than R50 million a day.

But workers were blaming the struggling company, saying that management was refusing to come to the table.

“We warn members of the public not to fly SAA during the strike. They will be putting their lives at risk,” said Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

The union said it would intensify the strike.

“We are shocked that the Civil Aviation Authority has done nothing about this situation.”

SAA said it was working around the clock to introduce more local lights to minimise the disruption.