British Airways South Africa Franchise Comair Facing Strike On Easter Weekend

British Airways has been emailing buyers of BA-coded but Comair operated flights in Southern Africa (not just South Africa) warning about potential disruptions to their travels.

BA Comair Strike

Comair’s airport ground staff that are members of NUMSA are threatening to begin their strike today (April 18, 2019) starting at 1PM local time. The strike affects British Airways and Kulula branded flights that are operated by Comair.

Here’s the announcement from Comair:

Comair contingency plan is comprehensive, daily operations to continue

Wednesday, April 17, 2019 3:49:00 PM

Johannesburg, 17 April 2019; Comair is working flat out to avoid or mitigate a possible strike by airport ground staff who are NUMSA members and ensure its customers reach their destinations.

NUMSA represents just over 50% of Comair’s 700 airport ground staff. Comair has a staff complement of 2200 people.

Wrenelle Stander, Comair’s Executive Director – Airline Division says while the company continues to engage NUMSA to reach an agreement, it has also approached the Labour Court for an urgent interdict to prevent a possible strike. The matter has been set down for 10h00 tomorrow morning, 18 April 2019.

At the same time, Comair has put in place contingencies to continue its daily operations should the strike happen.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to resolve the situation, however, even if this does not happen, we want to reassure customers that our contingency plan is comprehensive, and we intend to continue our daily operations,” says Stander.

Employees from across the business have volunteered to assist at airports over the Easter weekend.

The airline is also pro-actively calling as many customers as possible 72 hours before departure to facilitate check in and is providing additional bag-drop counters.

Customers are advised to check-in online or use the airport kiosks and to drop bags at the dedicated fast-bag-drop counters.

The dispute relates to salary anomalies of 21 employees hired prior to 2009 being paid higher than the agreed applicable salary scale

Comair and NUMSA disagree on two issues:

Comair believes the matter needs to be dealt with in terms of the Employment Equity Act and should follow and arbitration process. NUMSA believes it is a matter of mutual interest and the recourse is strike action.

In terms of dealing with the anomalies, NUMSA is only willing to consider increasing salaries for the entire bargaining unit to match those of the highest-paid ‘outlier’. Comair has made various proposals to bring the ‘outliers’ into the agreed salary band, all of which has been rejected by the Union. In addition, it offered a once-off goodwill payment to defer an outstanding basket of issues to align with our salary negotiation timeframes.

Notes to editors:

NUMSA issued Comair a strike notice on 16 April 2019 at 13h00. In terms of the notice this means airport ground staff represented by NUMSA are able to exercise their right to strike from 13h00 on Thursday, 18 April 2019.

The strike notice follows the CCMA issuing a certificate of non-resolution on 26 March after Comair and NUMSA could not reach an agreement about a salary discrepancy dispute.

NUMSA tabled the current salary discrepancy shortly after signing a two-year wage negotiation setting salaries for the next two year

Conclusion

Comair has contingency plans in place to operate all affected flights but, nevertheless, British Airways sends out an email that there are likely disruptions and to have contact information up to date.

The reason for this strike by the union is weird. There are 21 employees employed prior 2009 that earn higher wage than others.

I am scheduled to take BA-coded Comair flight on Saturday next week. I hope that this issue between the airline and its union is resolved by that time.

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