South African Airways reaches agreement with unions to end strike

South African airways
South African airways

South African Airways (SAA) announced on Friday that it has reached an agreement with trade unions to end a seven-day strike.

The SAA, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, and the South African Airways Cabin Crew Association ratified the agreement on Thursday, the airline said.

The parties agree to an increase of 5.9 percent on total cost of employment retrospective to April 1, 2019, which will be paid in the February 2020 payroll, subject to availability of funding.

Under the agreement, the SAA will defer a retrenchment process to January 2020, but the deferment would only apply to the bargaining unit, while the process will continue for SAA management, with the next consultation scheduled for Nov. 25.

The parties agree to establish a task team to identify and consider cost-saving initiatives such as insourcing and contracts.

“This deal, particularly the fact that we offered a 5.9-percent salary increase amidst grave financial challenges, is to recognize the company’s employees for the important contributions they make to the overall success of the company, economic development, and inbound and outbound tourism,” SAA Acting Chief Executive Officer Zuks Ramasia said.

South Africa needs a joint effort to create and maintain productive industrial relations that are key to the stability required to grow and expand the economy, create and maintain jobs and promote the country’s global competitiveness, Ramasia said.

The agreement with the unions will help promote that atmosphere of positivity, inclusivity and sustainable growth, he said.

The agreement allows the SAA to restore a full flight schedule in stages over the weekend, the airline said.

In practical terms, this means that the SAA will operate a near normal service on Saturday, Nov. 23, but there will be selected cancellations, principally on the domestic network and on a small number of regional flights, said the airline.

The SAA expects to operate its full schedule as usual on Sunday, Nov. 24, it said.

SAA employees went on strike last Friday after the airline rejected their demand for an eight-percent wage increase and planned to go ahead with its retrenchment of 944 jobs, almost a fifth of its employees, as part of its turnaround strategy.

The national carrier has long been in financial trouble. Over the past 13 years, the flag carrier has incurred over 28 billion rand (about 1.9 billion U.S. dollars) in cumulative losses. Enditem

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