DESERTED SAA counters at OR Tambo International Airport yesterday after Numsa and Sacca members embarked on a strikei, inset. Nokuthula Mbatha African News Agency (ANA); 
Siyabonga Sishi Reuters
JOHANNESBURG - A few hundred South African Airways employees have returned to work despite a strike, allowing the airline to resume some regional flights, acting Chief Executive Zuks Ramasia said on Tuesday.

Acting Chairwoman Thandeka Mgoduso also told the news conference that the state-run carrier held constructive talks on Tuesday with striking unions, whose members represent over half of the workforce, and these would continue.

Ramasia told the media that the airline would take about four months to recover from the crippling strike. 

Ramasia said that the impasse between SAA and the unions is around wage negotiations. She urged SAA employees who are still on strike to return to work. 

Prior to the news conference, SAA interim chief financial officer Deon Fredericks said the strike was pushing the struggling airline to unsustainable levels. “If this strike continues, we are running the risk of putting SAA out of business,” Fredericks said.

SAA is working with Mango Airlines to accommodate as many customers travelling on domestic services as possible and refunding passengers their flights or travel with other airlines.

SAA is facing a crippling onslaught by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca).

More than 3000 workers affiliated with Numsa and Sacca downed tools at SAA on Friday over a wage dispute and plans to cut more than 900 jobs, costing the airline about R52million a day. 

SAA is threatening the unions with legal action if they fail to retract comments that the safety of passengers cannot be guaranteed.

Over the weekend, Numsa said anyone flying with SAA during the strike was “endangering their life” as those working may not be sufficiently qualified.

Numsa and Sacca said the national carrier was using personnel with no relevant work experience in the maintenance and repair of aircraft and in the cabin crew area.