Comair aircraft kulula.com and British Airways. Picture supplied: Meropa Communications

Johannesburg - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa has vowed to defend its right to strike at Comair when it challenges the airline's attempt to interdict its planned job boycott at the Labour Court on Thursday morning. 

Numsa served the domestic airline with a 48-hour notice to strike on Tuesday over a wage dispute. If it goes ahead, the strike will begin at 1 pm on Thursday. 

However Comair, which operates as a low-cost carrier under its own kulula.com brand as well as operating domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee, has approached the Labour Court to interdict the strike which it says is illegal. The matter has been set down for 10 am.

The dispute relates to salary anomalies for 21 employees hired prior to 2009 who are being paid higher than the agreed salary scale. Numsa represents just over 50 percent of Comair's 700 airport ground staff out of a total staff complement of 2 200.

In a statement, the union said Comair wanted to interdict the strike because it was worried it would have a major impact on its operations and profits during the busy Easter weekend. 

Numsa slammed Comair for saying workers who participated in pickets during the strike would be arrested despite picketing rules established by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), together with Airports Company of SA at all airports.

"The CCMA has requested to mediate the strike on Thursday in an attempt to resolve the impasse. We welcome the intervention and we have agreed that we will be meeting them tomorrow afternoon," the union said.

"We will do everything in our power to prevent the interdict and we call on the management of Comair to engage meaningfully with our demands."

Comair said it was working flat out to avoid or mitigate the impact of the possible strike by airport ground staff and had put in place contingencies to continue daily operations should the industrial action happen. 

The airline said employees from across the business had volunteered to assist at airports over Easter. It said it had also pro-actively called as many customers as possible 72 hours before departure to facilitate check in and was providing additional bag-drop counters.

African News Agency/ANA