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South African restores more flights despite continued strike

South African Airways is resuming flights to destinations within the region, while the carrier's domestic services are still affected by industrial action.

The airline says that it is "on the road to operational recovery" as a "growing number of our employees… are coming back to work".

South African cancelled nearly all its flights on 15 and 16 November, when the strike began by the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) to seek an improved pay offer.

Intercontinental flights resumed on 17 November and are "now operating as usual and on an ongoing basis", the airline says.

Flights to African destinations Accra, Harare, Lagos, Lusaka, Maputo and Windhoek will restart today, the carrier adds.

But it confirms that "all" domestic customers continue to be rebooked on to flights operated by South African's budget subsidiary Mango and partner carriers Airlink and SA Express.

Noting South African's "no-work, no-pay" policy, acting chief executive Zuks Ramasia states that the carrier "would like to record its appreciation to those employees that have decided to return to work".

The airline, for its part, has condemned "several incidents relating to intimidation against staff" by union members.

"Describing some of our employees as 'traitors' and threatening that 'we know where you are' are flagrant methods of intimidation – and will not be tolerated by SAA," argues Ramasia.

South African has sought advice from a labour court about "additional" union demands, which, the carrier says, "are not part of part of the conflict… [and] not procedural", and to address "non-compliance with picketing rules".

Furthermore, the carrier has taken legal action against statements by SACCA and NUMSA, which, South African says, were "deeply regrettable, untruthful and without foundation".

The airline insists: "SAA has never – and will never – compromise safety under any circumstances."

While the cost of the strike for the company has "many elements", South African argues the reputational damage is "immeasurable".

Ramasia describes the carrier's current situation as "difficult".

Noting a "contribution by taxpayers to our sustainability", she argues that the state carrier "cannot afford salary increases at present".

NUMSA and SACCA demand an 8% wage increase, South African says.

The carrier has offered a 5.9% rise from March, if "funds are available at that time", it says.

South African says that a mediation commission will "shortly" be reconvened to resolve the dispute.

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