Picture: Sumaya Hisham/Reuters

Johannesburg - As the wage impasse in the aviation sector intensifies, it remains to be seen who will buckle first under the pressure over the next couple of days and go back to the negotiation table: SA Airways (SAA) or the unions.

On Monday, workers affiliated to the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) said they remained resolute in their demands for an 8% salary increase and insourcing of workers at the national airline.

But labour experts have since warned that there will be no winners in the ongoing conflict and that the protest action will have a negative impact on both the national carrier and workers.

“Strike action is not a good option for workers as they will not get their salaries. The strike will also put SAA in jeopardy. SAA losses will continue to be bigger,” said Professor Jannie Rossouw, head of economics and business science at Wits University.

He added that while it had been reported that SAA was suffering financial losses of more than R5 billion, the government should get rid of it.

“If there is someone who wants to buy SAA, then the government should immediately sell it. SAA has failed to publish its financial statements for more than three years,” Rossouw said.

Labour consultant Tony Healy also agreed that there wouldn’t be any winners in the dispute. “If the strike continues, SAA will continue to lose revenue, while the workers would lose their remuneration.”

Healy said the two parties should meet to resolve their disputes, saying “all strikes do come to an end eventually”.

“I would not be surprised, when an agreement is reached, if the parties come to terms over the reduction of the number of workers who should be retrenched.”

On Monday, Sacca president Chris Shabangu said there had been little progress in their negotiations with SAA, but that talks had resumed with management in the technical division.

“In our meeting with management in the technical division we talked about the possible insourcing of staff,” Shabangu said.

He emphasised that technical division bosses were more receptive to the proposals Sacca put to them, despite not making any commitment to implement insourcing.

“If you insource, you can have immediate cash to pay workers,” Shabangu said.

He said union members were willing to lower their salary demand of an 8% hike if SAA agreed to their demand to insource workers. Shabangu said SAA would be able to make money if it cancelled some of its contracts.

He was adamant they would now urge workers at other airlines, such as SA Express, SA Airlink, Mango, Airports Company SA and others, to join their strike.

Shabangu rejected SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali’s statement that SAA’s international flights had been running smoothly, and that it was planning to resume flights to various countries in southern Africa.

Political Bureau