Numsa and SACCA have vowed to intensify their strike after a failed meeting with SAA management. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) have vowed to intensify their strike after a failed meeting with South African Airways (SAA) management on Saturday under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) in a section 150 mediation.

The two unions, who are demanding an eight percent wage increase and have rejected SAA's offer of 5.9 percent, among other things, also warned passengers "not to fly SAA because their safety cannot be guaranteed".

In a statement on Sunday, Numsa and SACCA said, "following a lengthy meeting we adjourned yesterday night [Saturday] having not resolved the strike".

"The meeting ended without us finding one another. It is clear to us that the management of SAA is not prepared to do what is necessary to save the airline and end corruption," they said.

"One of our key demands is the demand for insourcing, because we know this is necessary in order to solve the airline's cash-flow problems. SAA management refuses to accept this demand, which confirms in our minds that they are dishonest when they claim they want to save SAA. This is confirmed by the decision to cancel additional flights on Sunday. The employer is not looking to resolve the dispute."

Both Numsa and SACCA had resolved that the strike should be intensified. "This is because the board, together with some executive managers, would rather see SAA collapse than deal with rooting out corruption, looting, and maladministration. SAA must drastically reduce its costs. And insourcing services, which it has the capacity to offer internally, is an obvious solution. Their refusal is proof that they want the airline to collapse.

"Therefore, in response to this deliberate provocation by the SAA board and executive management, Numsa is in the process of consulting workers for a secondary strike in aviation. We have begun consultations on this process in the various entities."

These included the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA); Mango Airlines; SAfair; SA Express; Airports Company South Africa (ACSA); Reshebile Security; Morena cleaning; Vizini, (maintenance company); Azda; Swissport; Bidair Services; and Comair. Airline catering companies such as Airchefs, Food Direction, LSG SkyChefs, and Dnata were also being consulted. 

"This is a fight for survival for all workers in aviation. We are fighting against retrenchment, corruption, and privatisation," Numsa and SACCA said in the statement.

"SAA is preparing to restore all international and domestic flights tomorrow [Monday]. We are warning passengers not to fly SAA because their safety cannot be guaranteed. Our members who are safety officers and technicians are on strike.

"Learners with no flight experience, and temporary technicians are being deployed to fly on SAA aircrafts and act as safety officers. The temporary technicians with no work experience are being used to work on aircraft without having the relevant experience in maintenance and repairs.

"Some are on two week contracts. We are warning the public that if they fly SAA during this strike they are putting their lives at risk. We ask the CAA how they can allow such a situation to exist, by placing the lives of the public at risk?" the statement said.

On Saturday, trade union Solidarity confirmed that its members still report for work at SAA "despite the turbulent times SAA is experiencing".

Given the SAA’s extremely precarious situation, Solidarity and its members regarded a strike as being destructive rather than constructive, Solidarity organiser Derek Mans said in a statement.

The future and sustainability of the SAA was currently on a knife edge. “It is common cause that the SAA has been under-performing for years and is struggling to stay in business, but its existence has never before been threatened as much as now. Solidarity and its members are aware of the huge crisis within SAA. That is why we have to think more broadly about solutions, and not stare ourselves blind at the notion of ‘going about business as usual’,” he said.

He emphasised that while its members continued to keep operations going at the SAA, Solidarity was working on formulating solutions to transform the overall image of the SAA in the best interest of its members as well as that of the country.

African News Agency (ANA)