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Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have joined forces to march against alleged poor working conditions and corruption at South African Airways (SAA).

The unions described the situation at the national carrier as an "escalating crisis".

Numsa's acting spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi, said it was no secret that the national carrier was in a crisis, citing the recent R2.3 billion government bail-out as evidence because the airline is R9 billion in debt.

"Its financial problems are caused by poor management and corruption, nothing more, and our members are suffering under the burden of poor working conditions and low wages as a result of this disastrous situation," Hlubi said.

"Corruption at SAA is rife, it’s clear that the state owned entity is being looted. The report by Ernst & Young paints a picture of rampant mismanagement, fraud and corruption. SAA has lost billions because of tender irregularities. It is clear that the State-owned enterprise is being looted."

In April this year, SAA cabin crew members went on strike over their international meal allowance, resulting in major interruptions for the airline's domestic and international flights. They claimed the matter had not been attended to for the past six years by the SAA management.

Hlubi also said that SAA was refusing to increase wages for the majority of workers, including the cabin crew, ground staff, cargo staff, and technical staff, yet is willing to continue paying out generous packages to the pilots, who are mostly white and male.

"Pilots at SAA are pampered and they receive lucrative benefits at the expense of the majority of workers," Hlubi said.

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"Numsa has lodged a dispute through the CCMA and mediation on these and other issues will take place soon. We hope to reach an agreement soon because if talks fail, then we may have to resort to a strike."

Sacca president, Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi, confirmed that they would be marching to SAA to highlight these and other issues and deliver a memorandum to the airline. 

"We are the ones who blew the corruption whistle on SAA, and subsequently our members have been victimised. We will be marching to highlight that," Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali did not respond to a request for comment.