Striking SAA cabin crew. Photo: Twitter
Johannesburg – South African Cabin Crew Association on Wednesday said they would return to work following the Labour court putting an end to the cabin crew strike. 

Around 200 flight attendants were gathered outside the South African Airways (SAA) head office in Kempton Park in protest against low international meal allowances. 

SAA filed an application to deem the strike illegal and to have the cabin crew staff return to their duties. SAA said on Wednesday that 32 flights were cancelled in total which included 28 domestic, three regional and one international flight. 

The South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) asked the court for a delay to give them time to file its own court papers to challenge the SAA application. 

SACCA however failed to meet the 1pm deadline to challenge the interdict. SAA's affidavit said that the strike was unprotected and it requested that an order be granted by the court to restrain employees from participating in the strike. The application also requested that an order be made for SACCA to restrain the union from encouraging and promoting participation in the strike. 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow Deputy Minister of Finance Alf Lees said they welcomed the court interdict putting an end to the cabin crew strike. Lees said that the strike was a symptom of a much deeper crisis at SAA. 

"The fact is that Dudu Myeni, who behaves less like a chairperson, and more like a “corporate warlord”, has run the national airline into the ground, and bankrupted South African Airways," Lees said. 

"A staggering loss of R4.5-billion is projected for 2016/17, which adds to the R1.5-billion loss in 2015/16 and R5.6-billion loss in 2014/15." Lees said that a total of R19.1-billion worth of government guarantees had apparently already been exhausted, which meant that SAA would likely need a further bailout long before the end of the 12 month “going concern” period claimed by the national airlines directors and verified by external auditors in 2016. 

"The fact is that South African Airways is now in a crisis which effects the sovereign credit rating of South Africa," Lees said. "I have, therefore, written to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Finance, Yunus Carrim, requesting him to schedule an urgent meeting with South African Airways on 4 or 5 May 2017 in Parliament." 

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) said it would be seeking legal advice on the matter. "We believe that the interdict is flawed because, as a recognised trade union at SAA we were not part of the application," spokesperson Phakhamile Hlubi said in a statement. 

"SAA had a duty to ensure that all interested parties, had an opportunity to respond, and that did not happen. We are finding out from our lawyers what the next course of action will be." 

SACCA said that workers would return to work and continue negotiations with management and wait for heads of SACCA to communicate a way forward. Cabin crew embarked on a strike demanding that their meal allowances be hiked from $130 (R1 699) to $170 (R2 217). 

African News Agency