At a meeting between Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), Gordhan reportedly told the unions, as well as South African Airways executives, that national government would not get involved in the current wage dispute. NUMSA and SACCA are demanding an 8% wage increase with no job cuts and an end to outsourcing at SAA, while the state-owned enterprise reportedly offered a conditional increase of 5.9% earlier this month.
Workers have argued that while they understand the financial situation of SAA, they remain steadfast in their demands because they are not being unreasonable.
“We understand the financial situation of South African Airways – us, as workers, have been there through years and years and years of corruption and we’ve tried to make as much noise as we could about it,” said SACCA president, Zazi Sibanyoni-Mugambi.
“The minister encouraged us to find a way to resolve this particular impasse and we’ve created a framework which, in our eyes, will fund our particular increase.”
Sibanyoni-Mugambi stressed that while she knows the public often perceive of unions as unnecessary noise-makers who only make demands but never offer viable solutions, this is not the case in this instance.
“We are not being unreasonable – we’ve done our homework and we’ve sat down and said ‘How can we assist SAA’ but we cannot do it alone…they are the decision makers.”
“We’re really back to square one and we don’t understand why…our suggestions are tangible and doable and it’ll save SAA a lot of money.”
Sibanyoni-Mugambi says that they know they need to take the situation into their own hands to preserve jobs and fund the increase.
“It can be done but it seems there’s no willingness [on the part of SAA].”
Meanwhile, it seems the tourism industry is taking quite a knock from the strike.
Reports by eNCA indicate that travel agents are saying that their customers are getting nervous.
“I do think the question mark is there in terms of ‘Do I book? Do I not book? What is going to happen to my travel for the next month, or the coming week? So definitely, I do think there’s an element of uneasiness and uncertainty,” said Kim Taylor, Flight Centre Customer Experience Director to eNCA.
Following these reports, the tourism industry pumps nearly R140 billion into the South African economy each year and the festive season is widely understood to be a key period.