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South African Airways and unions resume strike talks

South Africa’s flag carrier on Tuesday resumed talks with unions in a bid to break a five-day strike that has forced the cancellation of flights, the airline said.

South African Airways workers and the airline are in talks to end a strike that has grounded hundreds of flights
South African Airways workers and the airline are in talks to end a strike that has grounded hundreds of flights

Thousands of South African Airways (SAA) staff began an indefinite strike on Friday after the cash-strapped airline failed to meet a litany of demands, including higher wages and job in-sourcing.

The strike grounded hundreds of flights, but by Tuesday the airline had resumed partial schedules as some of the 3,000 striking workers had started returning to work.

South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan attended the latest round of talks on Tuesday — the first time the government was involved since the strike started.

“This afternoon we will again be meeting the unions to try and find common ground,” chairwoman of the SAA board Thandeka Mgoduso told reporters at a press conference.

“We are trying everything that we can to resolve the current impasse,” she added.

Mgoduso said the talks had so far been cordial.

SAA CEO Zuks Ramasia said the unions had introduced new demands that were not part of the original requests.

“The company has decided to approach the labour court on an urgent basis to interdict these demands,” Ramasia said.

“We are open to communicate, we want to talk,” she added.

The debt-ridden SAA, which has failed to make a profit since 2011 and survives off government bailouts, had initially refused to increase salaries.

It then caved and offered a 5.9 percent pay rise starting April next year.

But unions are demanding an eight percent hike and a three-year guarantee of job security.

Threats to strike started after SAA said last week that almost 1,000 employees could lose their jobs as part of a restructuring process.

The airline has said it cannot afford the desired increases.

SAA is Africa’s second largest airline after Ethiopian Airlines.

It flies to more than more 35 domestic and international destinations, carrying millions of passengers each year.

South Africa is struggling to get its state-owned companies back on track after nine years of corruption and mismanagement under former president Jacob Zuma. AFP