Numsa members picketing at national carrier SAA. PICTURE: SUPPLIED
Numsa members picketing at national carrier SAA. PICTURE: SUPPLIED

A secondary strike that could affect airline catering is on the cards, as talks between unions and SAA remained deadlocked on Wednesday. 

Addressing striking workers on Wednesday, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said Air Chefs, a subsidiary of SAA, had served the airline with a secondary strike notice.

“As of Tuesday, we served them with a notice of intent to embark on a secondary strike at Air Chefs, and let me tell you what impact that is going to have. It will not only affect SAA comrades, but it will affect a lot of airlines,” said Hlubi–Majola.

“Comair has a strike certificate. We are coming after Acsa (Airports Company SA). If Acsa shuts down, none of the planes are moving,” she said.

Comair said last week it had contingency plans to mitigate any effect the SAA strike may have on its flight schedules.

Numsa said there would be “no retreat, there will be no surrender” regarding the strike.

Hlubi-Majola said in the same way that SAA had found money to raise salaries for pilots, it should find a way to do so for other employees.

“We need to continue the struggle. We are there comrades … We need to remain resolute. We need to remain united,” she said.

She said efforts to provide solutions to SAA had fallen on deaf ears and management had failed to produce its financial records.

Numsa and SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) members have been on strike since Friday.

On Tuesday, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan issued a statement after meeting with striking unions, describing it as an “open and frank exchange of information”.

A statement from his office said: “While the minister reiterated the government’s commitment to saving the airline, he strongly urged the unions to work with the airline’s management to find a speedy resolution to the impasse. The ultimate aim is to ensure that both jobs and the airline can be saved.” 

Gordhan was clear that the government was “not in a position to make money available to the airline”. 

“The pattern of bailouts has become a moral hazard,” he said. “Over the past three years, the government has provided more than R20.5bn of fiscal support to SAA. No further financial resources can be advanced to the carrier. The government is facing severe financial constraints.”

SAA offered workers a 5.9% increase, but they are demanding 8%.