Less than 3 weeks after returning to the skies, staff from South African Airways (SAA) are having to navigate turbulent skies as staff are unhappy with the working conditions at the national carrier.
The South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union Of Metal Workers Association (NUMSA) held a picket outside the SAA offices in Kempton Park yesterday. Some workers say they have been forced to take 35% salary cuts. Workers are also protesting unfair working conditions and the structure of SAA’s management.
NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi Majola says after a long process of business rescue and not being in the air, more than 3000 members lost their jobs at the airline. Majola says the cut in benefits and salary reductions were imposed on workers.
Even though the contracts were signed, Majola says it was signed as workers were desperate to start working. She says some of the working conditions are inhumane.
“You have workers who come on shift at six in the morning after having woken up at 4 am to go and do a full flight there and back on their feet, no lunch break, no meal allowance because they don't get paid, not allowed to eat on the plane. It’s inhumane how workers are being treated,” said Majola.
The strike action will not have an impact on the operations of SAA as members who are scheduled to be on shift have been excused from the protest.
SACCA president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam says it is very unfortunate that workers have to strike before they are heard by the companies they work for. She says the CEO of SAA refuses to engage with labour around concerns at the national carrier.
Nsibanyoni-Anyiam adds that while staff have been forced to take salary cuts of up to 35%, management have taken salary increases. She says that various allowances have been cut including night shift allowances, housing allowances and medical aid.
She said, “today is a demonstration, a petition around how they've been abused by this company in the name of team SAA, the new SAA, this is not the new SAA when people are this unhappy and management is not speaking to labor. We need to collaborate and talk if this new SAA will be successful”.
SAA says they are open to an engagement. They said, “While SAA recognises and respects the rights of people to protest, the carrier is not able to revert to prior agreements reached before business rescue. SAA notes the protest action by SACAA on a dispute with regards to terms and conditions of employment”.
SAA also says that all unions were consulted during the period when its planes were grounded.
“During the hiatus SAA consulted widely with all stakeholders including staff associations and unions and is confident that all new agreements reached with parties either in a collective or individual capacity were negotiated fairly and equitably,” said the airline.