South African Airways (SAA) yesterday announced the cancellation of Lagos flight operations for this weekend as its workers begin indefinite strike today. The airline in a notice to travel agencies said the cancellation would affect nearly all its domestic, regional and international operations.
The statement, signed by SAA spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, said the flights were cancelled to minimise the impact of disruptions for its customers. Unless alternative arrangements are in place, customers were requested not to go to the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA) departure during the disruption, as SAA will be unable to provide any assistance. Tlali said information on the status of their flights would be regularly updated on SAA’s website.
South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) had announced that their members would embark on industrial action from Friday morning.
However, it is more than likely outbound international passengers will carry the brunt of the impact from cancelled flights. SAA did confirm certain flights operating from “selected outstations” on Friday, 15 November 2019 will return to SAA’s base, OR Tambo International Airport, departing Friday.
The airline is currently under pressure to submit its 2018-2019 annual report and financial statements, with concerns about its viability as it needs to secure a R2 billion working capital loan, mounted against cumulative losses of about R28 billion over the past 13 years.
This is in addition to what has been described by the unions as the “mother of all strikes” set for Friday morning, following SAA’s announcement on Monday, 11 November that it is embarking on a restructuring process, which may affect 944 jobs of some 5149 employees.
Interim Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of SAA, Deon Fredericks, said the strike would endanger the existence of SAA and could destroy every job at the state-owned airline. Currently, labour represents 24 per cent of SAA’s total cost.
Tlali said during the negotiations with the unions, “SAA presented a revised offer for employees delivering a 5.9 per cent increase subject to the availability of funds from lenders.”
NUMSA and SACCA are demanding an eight per cent increase. National Transport Movement (NTM) has not stated whether their members will embark on a strike or not. SAA attempted to dissuade the unions from embarking on industrial action by providing firm commitment dates to SAA’s offer of 5.9 per cent. Discussions are continuing to resolve the wage matter at the time of issuing the statement.