National Union of Metalworkers South Africa general secretary Irvin Jim says that the R6 billion profit, which is an improvement of R452 million from the previous financial year, is in no small measure attributable to the performance of its members, Comair employees, and therefore they were entitled to share in the profits. Photo: Leon Lestrade. African News Agency (ANA)

JOHANNESBURG – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said on Wednesday that workers were preparing to go on strike at international airline Comair from next week over a 12 percent wage demand and other basic conditions of employment. 

Comair operates and manages British Airways and Kulula.com in South Africa. The company employs about 750 employees as airport staff. 

In October, the company was officially recognised by the Top Employers Institute as a Top Employer 2019 for excellence in employee conditions.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they were the only recognised union under airport bargaining unit with 389 members, and that there would be a national strike affecting services for these airlines at all the major airports nationally if the union embarks on a strike. 

Among other demands, Numsa demands a guaranteed 13th cheque, travelling allowance, daily overtime allowance, additional shop stewards and a shift allowance to be 15 percent of basic salary.

"In the last financial year Comair made a profit of R6 billion, which was an improvement of R452 million from the previous financial year. Workers are directly responsible for that performance. It was entirely through their efforts that the executives and the board are experiencing huge profits," Jim said.

"Workers have earned and deserve an increase and a living wage. The lowest paid worker earns R9 000 per month. They are denied a guaranteed 13th cheque, and other allowances like the shift allowance and the daily overtime allowance, whilst the executives receive millions in guaranteed bonus pay-outs."

Jim accused Comair of putting workers lives at risk by forcing them to rely on unreliable methods of transport to work and after knocking off at awkward hours when the public transport system is often not operational. 

Jim said the strike was due to start week Thursday. 

Comair was not immediately available for comment but promised to respond later. The airline has requested mediation in terms of section 150 from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). 

"We will be meeting with management under the auspices of CCMA on Tuesday," Jim said.

African News Agency (ANA)