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SAA: We will take legal action over unions' 'malicious' claims of unsafe flights

Nov 19 2019 18:06
Azarrah Karrim

South African Airways says it will take legal action against the SA Cabin Crew Association and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa over comments they made about the safety of flights.

At a media briefing on Tuesday in Kempton Park, SAA executives said the comments were “deeply regrettable, untruthful and without foundation”, adding that their employees are highly qualified.

“Our operations are fully compliant with regulations in force. Furthermore, we acknowledge that confirmation by the SA Civil Aviation Authority that our operations are safe and fully compliant with international safety standard,” acting SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia said.

"The statements made by SACCA on the safety of SAA are very regrettable and untruthful. We are therefore taking appropriate legal action… It is known worldwide that our flight deck crew, cabin crew and technicians are highly qualified," Ramasia added.

Members of Numsa and SACCA have been on strike since Friday over wages, possible job cuts and the insourcing of employees. 

'Unfounded attack'

On Sunday Numsa spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, urged travellers not to fly with SAA, alleging a safety risk. "Learners in the technical environment and other staff are being used to fly aircraft without having the requisite experience," she said.

At the time, Ramasia said these allegations were "malicious and represent an unfounded attack".

Hlubi-Majola did not respond to specific questions from Fin24 on Tuesday. 

Additional demands

Tuesday's media briefing was held after unions and SAA leadership earlier met with Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan in Pretoria. This initial meeting has not resolved the strike, and further meetings have been planned for Tuesday afternoon.

Ramasia told journalists that while negotiations between unions and SAA are were ongoing, unions have added additional demands beyond their initial demand for an 8% wage increase.

She said the airline had therefore approached the labour court over both these demands and the unions’ non-compliance with picketing rules.

"The company has decided to approach the labour court on an urgent basis to interdict these demands, which are not part procedural and also to address the non-compliance with picketing rules."

Meanwhile, processes with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration have reconvened "to mediate in the current deadlock between unions and management".

"Our efforts are focused on finding solutions that recognise employees’ concerns, safeguard the business and return operation to normal without delay," SAA said.

Ramasia said while a number of workers were coming back to work after previously being on strike, they are being intimidated by employees still on strike.

"SAA strongly condemns the intimidation of employees who have decided to report to work. Let us be clear: describing some of our employees as ‘traitors’ and threatening that ‘we know where you are’ are flagrant methods of intimidation and will not be tolerated by SAA."

The national carrier has instituted a ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle, which it said would take an employee joining the strike for seven days about four months to recover.

Wanted: Government guarantee

SAA has said it needs R2bn before November 20 to stay afloat.

Deon Fredericks, interim CFO of SAA, said at the briefing that the banks have agreed to loan the national carrier R2bn and a guarantee will be sought from government. 

This money, Fredericks told News24, was for working capital.

"We need R2bn in working capital [but] tomorrow doesn’t mean we need to have it by the 20th [of November], it means we need confirmation from the banks [by then]," he said.

He added, "The R2bn is just to operate the business, which means next year you will need money earlier to cover for the costs of the strike."

strike  |  saa
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