SAA agrees deal to end eight-day strike

South African Airways (SAA) reached a deal on wages with two trade unions on Friday to end an eight-day strike that has weighed on the cash-strapped state airline.

Already reliant on government handouts to survive, SAA had to suspend hundreds of flights after the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) walked out on November 15.

The airline said it might not make salary payments this month.

SAA on Friday said the unions had agreed to a 5.9% wage hike retroactive to April, to be paid from next February if sufficient funds were available.

Consultations on planned job cuts have been deferred until Jan 31, it said.

“SAA will operate a near normal service on Saturday 23 November 2019,” SAA said in a statement. “On Sunday, 24 November 2019, SAA expects to operate its full schedule as usual.”

Numsa union members had put their income on the line to achieve the deal, spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said.

“As unions we fought very hard to negotiate a settlement which would be in the best interests of our members and we can honestly say this proposal is a reflection of that,” she said.

SAA on Friday also signed a wage deal with the National Transport Movement, a union which did not participate in the strike.

The government has spent about R20 billion on support for SAA in the past three years.

But with ballooning state budget deficits and a sovereign credit rating teetering on the brink of “junk” status, officials are trying to rein in financial support for ailing state firms.