An SAA aeroplane at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS
An SAA aeroplane at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE HUTCHINGS

Cash-strapped national carrier SAA says it will not be  able to pay staff salaries for November on the normal scheduled payment dates.

The announcement on Thursday evening came a day after public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told MPs that the airline does not have enough cash to “possibly even pay salaries at the end of the month”.

The airline has posted more than R18bn in losses since the 2015 financial year. But that did not stop members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) from embarking on an open-ended pay strike on Friday, demanding an 8% wage increase.

The company has offered them 5.9% deferred to April 2020. “Not only will [workers] not get increases, but they might not even get their salaries,” Gordhan said on Wednesday.

On Thursday evening SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said the airline, which has received R5bn from the National Treasury in 2019, has advised all personnel that it will “not be able to pay salaries for November on the normal scheduled dates”.

“The company has yet to secure R2bn working capital to fund daily operations and this includes payment of salaries to all employees,” he said.

“The company has undertaken to keep employees updated on this matter and will advise staff on the dates for payment of November salaries.”

On Wednesday, the state-owned airline said it was facilitating the return of employees who wanted to work in defiance of the strike that has gone on for almost a week.

The airline has since resumed its international flight schedule. It has also resumed flights to Accra, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo, Windhoek and Harare, and to selected local destinations and Victoria Falls.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za