South African Airways (SAA) has canceled “nearly all” domestic, regional and international flights scheduled for Nov. 15-16 after the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) announced industrial action.

The strike follows SAA’s Nov. 11 announcement that it is embarking on a restructuring process that may lead to cutting approximately 944 out of 5,149 jobs.

“The strike is going to exacerbate, rather than ameliorate our problem, and will result in a set of circumstances from which there may well be no recovery,” SAA acting CEO Zuks Ramasia said in a Nov. 13 statement.

News channel eNCA reported the strike will cost the airline ZAR50 million ($3.3 million) a day. The airline received ZAR5.5 billion from state coffers this year alone. 

Only flights operated by SAA mainline will be affected. SAA will operate flights from selected destinations Nov. 15 back to SAA’s home base, Johannesburg OR Tambo International Airport.  

Flights provided by partner airlines—including SA Express, Mango, SA Airlink—will operate as scheduled.

During union negotiations, SAA presented a revised offer for employees that would deliver a 5.9% increase, subject to availability of funds from lenders. NUMSA and SACCA are demanding an 8% increase.

“The unions and all employees should be mindful of the current financial constraints the company is facing. Wage demands have to be tested on the basis of affordability and sustainability,” Ramasia said.

SAA has reiterated that any strike endangers the future of the airline and threatens jobs.

“Like other airlines, SAA is under severe financial pressure. At the moment, our costs are higher than our revenue, and the sooner we address that, the better for the immediate survival of the company,” she said.

Kurt Hofmann, hofmann.aviation@netway.at