Bloomberg News

South African Airways Flights to Continue in Event of Strike

January 17, 2013

South African Airways SOC Ltd., the nation’s state-owned carrier, has plans in place to keep flying should some workers start a strike tomorrow because of a dispute about union recognition, an airline spokesman said.

About 1,300 employees at South African Airways, also known as SAA, and 3,300 Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa SOC Ltd. workers were issued strike notices, Chris Nte, secretary-general for the National Transport Movement union, said by phone from Johannesburg today. The labor group wants recognition as majority staff representative in order to gain legal organizational rights, Nte said.

“SAA has activated contingency plans that are intended to avoid disruptions to the airline’s operations and avoid causing inconvenience to customers as a result of the strike,” Tlali Tlali, a spokesman, said in an e-mailed response to questions.

Labor unrest in Africa’s largest economy intensified after miners downed tools at Lonmin Plc’s (LON) Marikana operations on Aug. 10 to demand higher wages. About 47 people died in subsequent violent clashes between workers and police. Stoppages spread to platinum, gold, coal and iron-ore mines and truck drivers started a 2 1/2-week strike on Sept. 24.

SAA received a notice from the National Transport Movement union that its members intend to strike, Tlali said. The labor union hasn’t met the threshold of 30 percent, or 1,220 non- managerial permanent employees, it needs in order to gain recognition, he said. SAA, sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest airline by passengers, had more than 11,000 workers on March 31, according to its annual report.

“They have included managers and contract employees in their head count,” Tlali said. “Other unions with similar cases were denied recognition by the airline.”

Representatives from the rail agency and the National Transport Movement will meet today to discuss whether the union should be recognized, Moffet Mofokeng, a spokesman for the rail company, said by phone from Johannesburg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jaco Visser in Johannesburg at avisser3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net


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