Johannesburg - Claims by the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) that its ongoing strike had disrupted SA Airways' (SAA) operations were not true, the airline said on Tuesday.
“Contingency plans by SAA and its maintenance subsidiary SA Airways Technical (SAAT) have proven to be effective, with minimal disruption,” SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said in a statement.
“The entities also refute claims by... Satawu that its industrial action at SAAT has paralysed operations. SAA operations continue to operate with minimal disruptions, a fact which can be independently verified,” he said.
Technical staff at SAA started striking on Monday.
SAA had offered a 6.5 percent increase. The union initially demanded a 12 percent increase, but Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said on Tuesday that it wanted a double-digit increase.
Tlali said SAA had 31 flight departures out of OR Tambo International Airport between 6am and noon on Tuesday, of which only one was delayed for 17 minutes as a direct result of the strike.
“It is unfortunate that Satawu continues to propagate exaggerated and unfounded claims,” he said.
SAAT also denied Satawu's claim that the company had assigned uncertified engineers to work on aircraft.
“This is utterly deceitful as the company conducts its business in line with international and local regulatory prescripts,” he said.
“SAAT and SAA would under no circumstances deploy its personnel, or any contractor to work on matters that they are unqualified, or uncertified for. The SAA group of companies puts the safety of customers and crew above anything else.”
SAA met with labour representatives on Monday afternoon and tabled an improved offer, with the consensus being that the union would seek a fresh mandate from its members on whether to accept the offer.
“It is thus regrettable that Satawu has insinuated that they would revert back to their initial demand of 12 percent,” Tlali said.
“The SAA group views this demand as unrealistic, especially given the current gloomy economic situation and the financial challenges that the company is grappling with.”
He said throughout the negotiations, SAA had been forthright with unions regarding what the company could afford.
SAA expected unions to understand that the offer placed on the table was informed by what the company could afford based on the existing, limited resources.
“The company is still hopeful that a speedy resolution to the current impasse can be found,” he said.
“The airline urges customers to check their flight status before going to the airport. The SAA group will continue to keep customers and the public informed about developments around this matter.”
Satawu spokesman Vincent Masoga said on Tuesday evening that negotiations had come to a halt, and it was not known when they would resume.
“The employer has delayed in order to try and break the spirit of the strike and the moral of the workers,” he said.
“However, it is unfortunate. They are going to be to be disappointed. We are confident that the strike is legal.”
Tlali was not available for comment about the halt in negotiations.