South African Airways has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to conciliate in the salary increment impasse. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

DURBAN - South Africa's national carrier South African Airways (SAA) has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to conciliate in the salary increment impasse at the national carrier.

"We are happy that the unions have embraced our proposal for a commissioner to facilitate discussions aimed at resolving our differences. The mediation will begin on Saturday morning," said said Martin Kemp, SAA Acting General Manager for Human Resources.

Kemp added, "We recognise SAA and its employee’s contribution to our country’s economic growth, specifically in the context of outbound and inbound tourism. It is in the public interest that this dispute be resolved. The union’s willingness to find a resolution is laudable". 

Unions NUMSA AND SACCA have demanded an 8 percent salary increase but the national carrier has said has said that they cannot afford to pay any increases but it has offered the unions a 5.9 percent salary increase when funds are available.

SAA has unsuccessfully tried to dissuade the unions from embarking on industrial action by providing firm commitment dates to its offer. The unions have rejected the offer and embarked on industrial action.

“Our efforts are focused on finding solutions that accommodate the employee demands, safeguard the business and return operations to normal. We are exploring all possible avenues,” said Kemp.

SAA's move to meet with the CCMA comes after workers for the national carrier downed tools over wage increases on Friday resulting in the cancellation of all domestic and regional flights until Monday. 

SAA said it was aiming to operate most of its international flights departing from O.R. Tambo International Airport from Sunday and customers should report to the airport as usual. 

Workers for the airline are also protesting SAA's plan of cutting over 900 jobs in a bid to stem financial losses. 

The national carrier, which is without a permanent Chief Executive, said that the strike by unions will cost the airline R50 million per day and threatens the survival of SAA. 

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE