Will SAA survive this strike?

South African Airways (SAA) says its future hangs in the balance after its workers went on strike to demand higher wages and protest planned job cuts which forced the state-owned carrier to cancel all its flights.

More than 100 international and local flights international flights were cancelled when the unions began their strike on Friday, which saw SAA shedding at least R200-million – plunging its balance sheet into a deeper crisis.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association embarked on a strike after SAA announced a restructuring process which may affect 944 jobs.

The striking unions are demanding an 8% across-the-board wage increase. Unions also want to have job security for at least three years and the in-sourcing of services like security, cleaning and ground handling.

According to Numsa and SACCA, SAA pilots recently received a 5.9% increase. The two unions said their members were simply demanding increases as well, which should be higher than pilots as they earn less.

SAA has pointed out that the 5.9% salary stems from a 5-year salary agreement after an arbitration process to which the airline is legally bound.

In a meeting with the striking unions, Minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan has said that no further financial resources can be advanced to cash-strapped flag carrier SAA. In September, the government issued a R5.5bn bailout to cover SAA’s operational costs, but will be unable to help any more.

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