Comair has vowed to keep operations running smoothly throughout the festive season.
Comair has vowed to keep operations running smoothly throughout the festive season.
Image: 123RF/Antonio Guillem

Comair has vowed to keep operations running smoothly throughout the festive season while it finds common ground with the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa), which is threatening to strike.

“We are delighted that our customers’ travel plans will not be inconvenienced over the festive season,” Comair executive director Wrenelle Stander said on Thursday.

Comair has asked the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to mediate the matter between them and Numsa after the union sought to declare a strike as workers claimed the company had refused to give them travel allowances.

“This is a huge problem because we live in a country with a very unreliable transportation service,” Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said on Wednesday. “Shifts begin in the early hours and end very late at night. There is no reliable transportation, and this puts their lives at risk.” 

Hlubi-Majola accused the airline of refusing to pay workers “equal pay for work of equal value”.

Stander said the company respects the employees’ right to strike, but they had made sufficient progress on outstanding matters.

“We wish to thank our staff for their ongoing commitment and support. The wellbeing of our employees remains our foremost priority, we will continue to invest in that.”

The next meeting with the CCMA will take place on January 11, where salary increases are expected to be discussed.

Comair operates and manages British Airways and Kulula in SA where it has 2,206 employees, with 373 belonging to Numsa.

Numsa and Comair deadlocked in negotiations over salaries with the trade union demanding:

  • a salary increase of 12%;
  • a guaranteed 13th cheque;
  • a travelling allowance;
  • extra shop stewards;
  • a shift allowance equal to 15% of basic salaries; and
  • a daily overtime allowance.