A new labour era for South African Airways02 Mar 2017
Purpose: In the light of the South African Airways (SAA) (and Heathrow airport) strike in July 2005, an opportunity exists to evaluate the situation in order to address related problems in the future. The role of labour and specifically labour relations in the air travel industry highlights some important factors related to the industry. This paper aims to highlight the specific factors that will address possible reasons for poor workplace relations in SAA. Furthermore, a workable labour relations model for the organisation and other air travel organisations is proposed. In allowing a strike of the magnitude of the SAA strike of 2005 (e.g. a loss of income of R25 million per day), serious labour relations problems in the organisation are obvious. In order to prevent this action, an in-depth study of workplace relations is necessary to focus on the real problems and to adapt and make changes. Design/Methodology/Approach: This paper is an exploratory exercise based on literature that provides an overview of scholarship in the air travel industry through an analysis of trends and debates, telephonic interviews with role players in the industry and discussions with academics in the tourism industry and in labour relations. Findings: Taking into account that the air travel industry is technologically advanced, highly labour intensive, very sensitive towards external influences and very competitive, it is therefore important for every employer (including SAA) to design a labour relations system that is fit for the organisation. A suggested labour relations model for SAA is about the ability to build and sustain relationships characterised by shared goals, shared knowledge and mutual respect. Implications: The effects of strikes and other labour actions in the air travel industry have far reaching impacts on the air travel industry, the tourism industry, as well as the national economy. Originality/Value: This study highlights the importance of sound labour relations in the industry.