A union that called a strike at South African Airways (SAA) threatened on Sunday to shut down the country’s entire aviation sector with further industrial action after talks with the state-run carrier ended without a deal.
SAA was forced to cancel hundreds of flights as a result of the strike that began on Friday. The airline said it would cost it 50 million rand ($3.36 million) per day and jeopardise crucial talks with lenders around much-needed funding, threatening its survival.
The carrier and striking unions, representing over half of its workforce, held negotiations on Saturday that ended without an agreement. At a media briefing on Sunday, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said it was now consulting with its members at other organisations in the industry on a secondary strike.
“This secondary strike will have the impact of shutting down the entire aviation sector,” she said, adding that consultations were underway with workers at organisations including the Civil Aviation Authority, Mango Airlines, SA Express, Airports Company South Africa and Comair.
She also said NUMSA had filed an application with the High Court to have SAA’s technical board declared delinquent. SAA’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
The unions’ demands include an 8% wage increase and for outsourced services to be bought back in-house, and they also object to SAA’s plans to axe more than 900 jobs. They say workers are tired of holding the can for years of management failures.
SAA, which has not made a profit since 2011 and which is reliant on government bailouts to survive, says it needs to cut costs. President Cyril Ramaphosa has staked his reputation on turning around a number of ailing state-run firms the government has been forced to prop up.