SAAT calls off wage talks with Satawu

Pretoria: Wage talks with the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) have been called off, South African Airways Technical (SAAT) said.

SAAT, which is the maintenance subsidiary of South African Airways (SAA), said wage negotiations with the union have been called off with immediate effect.

Union members have been on strike since Monday.

“The decision to call off the negotiations is a result of the striking Satawu members’ disregard of the picketing rules and intensified unruly behaviour,” said SAAT on Thursday.

There had been an “erratic act of intimidation”, trespassing and damage to property.

SAAT said that on Thursday, close to 150 Satawu members had been picketing outside of the SAAT entrance. A group of striking workers then embarked on a ‘drive slow’ on Jones Road, which leads to SAA and SAAT premises.

“Occasionally, the group would park their vehicles in the road, thus negatively affecting traffic flow on Jones Road. This has had a temporary effect on the access to the two entities. Alternative access points have been arranged,” said SAAT.

SAA’s Group Security Department has also received reports of severe intimidation of motorists and alleged assault of members of the public and employees of the company. The company said it will take the necessary disciplinary steps in dealing with these incidents.

SAAT has successfully applied for an interdict, which will strengthen the law enforcement agencies’ ability in dealing with any acts of criminality associated with the picketers.

“This behaviour by Satawu protesters is unacceptable and SAAT management cannot continue to engage with the union until such time that the union ends disobedience of picketing rules. This disorderly behaviour, which is directed at innocent members of the public and employees of the company, is a clear act of desperation by Satawu,” said SAAT.

The strike action has had no noticeable impact on SAAT and SAA’s operations.

Contingency plans put in place will continue to be in place in order to ensure minimal if any disruptions to airline operations.

To date, SAA flight delays as a direct result of the strike have on average been three per day.

On Wednesday, SAA concluded a wage deal with the Aviation Union of Southern Africa (AUSA).

AUSA represents a large portion of engineers and technical staff at SAAT.

The wage agreement is for a period of one year. The settlement entails 6.5% on total cost to company; a 0.5% once-off payment and a further 1% increase for technicians flowing from the previous year’s wage agreement.