FILE PHOTO: Logo of SAA is seen on an aircraft at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg
FILE PHOTO: Logo of SAA is seen on an aircraft at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg

South African Airways, NTM union sign wage deal

By Alexander Winning Time of article published Nov 22, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG -South African Airways (SAA) signed a deal on Friday with a union not involved in a strike that has crippled the heavily indebted carrier, giving its members a 5.9% pay rise backdated to April.

The National Transport Movement (NTM) is one of the largest unions at SAA but its members are not participating in a strike, now in its eighth day, that has left the airline with almost no cash and at risk of missing salary payments this month.

The state-owned carrier’s swift decline has turned it into a black hole for government bailout money. The government has spent about 20 billion rand ($1.4 billion) on SAA in the past three years. 

NTM President Mashudu Raphetha told Reuters the wage deal was subject to SAA securing additional funds.

The pay rise will be effective from April 2019 but NTM members would only start receiving higher salaries from February 2020. Back payments due from April 2019 would be paid in lump sums in March and April 2020.

Union leaders at the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association, which are leading the strike, did not respond to requests for comment.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali did not answer messages seeking comment.

Late on Thursday,  Acting CEO of strike-hit SAA, Zuks Ramasia said that the state-owned airline will not be able to pay some staff salaries on time for the month of November. 

SAA is running out of cash because of the week-long strike over wages and job cuts.

Ramasia said in a statement that the airline would not be able to fulfill salary payments to employees on the scheduled date. 

She said, "SAA continues on a critical and sensitive path to secure R2bn from lenders to fund the day to day operations. SAA has not yet achieved this critical milestone. Furthermore, any funding from the lenders will need to be supported by a government guarantee that SAA will have to obtain."  

Ramasia said that SAA could not achieve the above mentioned conditions because of the current negative sentiment which surrounds the airline currently, as well as operational challenges. 


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