Strike over: South African Airways strike called off after deal signed

Image Waldo Swiegers Bloomberg

SAA said that the section 189A Labour Relations Act (LRA) process - for which notice was served on the 11 November 2019 to all recognised trade unions - will be deferred effective from the date of signature of this agreement to the 31st January 2020.

The domestic flights are taking place as the industrial action remains in full swing, despite some workers returning to work so that the SAA can mount the limited domestic, regional and worldwide flights.

Already reliant on government handouts to survive, SAA had to suspend hundreds of flights after the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) walked out on November 15.

The strike was not just about wage increases, the unions said.

"SAA will operate a near normal service on Saturday 23 November 2019", SAA said in a statement.

Debt-ridden SAA, which has failed to make a profit since 2011 and survives on government bailouts, had initially refused any salary raise.

NUMSA union members had put their income on the line to achieve the deal, spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said.

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Last week the airline said in order to stay afloat they would need to retrench close to 1 000 employees, causing two unions associated with the airline to embark on a strike.

Africa's second-largest carrier had warned that the strike "endangers the future of the airline".

SAA has now agreed to pay a 5.9% wage increase on total cost of employment. During the four to six-month period of training, SAA is only obligated to pay 25% of the salaries, including benefits, of participants.

Owing to the strike, SAA had been losing 52 million rand a day as it scrambled to partially restore some flights earlier this week.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has made turning around ailing state companies such as SAA a priority as he tries to revive economic growth and steady the country's public finances after a ruinous decade under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

SAA has lost more than R28 billion over the past 13 years and relies on financial support from the government to stay in the air, and government is now talking to potential partners to ease the burden on the taxpayer.

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