Hein Kaiser
2 minute read
12 Oct 2021
4:53 pm

WATCH: SAA’s relaunch crosswinds – staff protest pay cuts, working conditions

Hein Kaiser

SAA relaunched a fortnight ago, and already faced its first staff protest, as cabin crew say they are tired of being treated like beggars.

Labour protested beneath SAA's faded headquarters sign today. Picture Hein Kaiser

Members of the National Metalworkers Union (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association picketed in front of SAA’s headquarters today claiming poor working conditions, handling a list of grievances to the company for review.

Labour has given the resuscitated airline’s executive 7 days to come up with a response, otherwise they’ll be back with a march, they say.

Watch SAA’s first protest since relaunching a fortnight ago

Prominent on the agenda is the 35% pay-cut that remaining staff at the flag carrier had to take.

Salaries are now benchmarked against low-cost airlines like Mango says labour, “But management salaries are measured against industry standards,” said SACCA president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam.

“Why doesn’t everyone get measured against budget airline salaries? What makes them so special? It’s about fairness, collaboration, proper discussion and engagement,” she added.

In a joint statement, the unions say that “we are being treated like beggars by SAA management and are being told we must be grateful to have a job. We are staying because we love SAA, we are not staying to be abused by management.”

Unions say that they have tried reaching out to SAA interim chief executive Thomas Kgokolo to no avail. Their other grievances include the reinstatement of previous conditions of employment, medical aid, and housing allowances, as well as objections against the re-employment of people who previously took voluntary severance packages, among others.

“The fact that cabin crew are not even entitled to a one-hour lunch break is ridiculous,” added Nsibanyoni-Anyiam. “Our members cannot make ends meet, they cannot send their kids to school or put food on the table.”

Also read: SAA hits turbulence a few days after relaunch

A petition listing the issues was handed to SAA interim executive of Human Resources Mpho Letlape.

Airline spokesperson Vimla Maistry issued a statement saying that “South African Airways has consulted widely with all stakeholders, including unionized and non-unionized employees, and the airline is confident that all new agreements in terms of the conditions of employment reached with the parties either in a collective or individual capacity. We negotiated fairly and equitably.”

But labour doesn’t quite agree.

“It should be about fairness, collaboration, proper discussion, and engagement. If it was the case now, then we would not be out here picketing. We don’t need to speak like this, and we don’t need this kind of confrontational situation where we can just sit in the boardroom and engage and find solutions collectively,” said Nsibanyoni-Anyiam.

In a parting shot to protesters, she said that SAA has 7 days to respond to the petition, and that they’ll all be back, next time with a march, should no consensus be reached with management.

“The airline continues to engage with its unions and look forward positive and strengthening relationships with soccer and is always open to constructive dialogue,” said Maistry. SAA also said that the protest action did not disrupt operations.