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Unions in wage talks with distressed South African Airways

Credit: REUTERS/SUMAYA HISHAM

Two trade unions at state-owned South African Airways (SAA) said they would continue talks with the airline on Thursday aimed at ending a week long strike over wages and job cuts that has brought the national flag carrier to the brink of collapse.

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JOHANNESBURG, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Two trade unions at state-owned South African Airways (SAA) said they would continue talks with the airline on Thursday aimed at ending a week long strike over wages and job cuts that has brought the national flag carrier to the brink of collapse.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), which have been leading the strike, said in a statement that they hoped to find an acceptable compromise in the talks with SAA.

SAA has nearly no cash left and may miss salary payments this month. The carrier's swift decline has turned it into a black hole for government bailout money, with some 20 billion rand ($1.35 billion) being spent on it in the past three years.

Its operations are marred by an unprofitable international route network and a fleet of inefficient planes. The airline said on Thursday it would suspend all flights between Johannesburg and Hong Kong from Nov. 23 up to and including Dec. 14 to curb significant financial losses on the route.

A South African union filed a case on Thursday asking a court to subject SAA to a business rescue, with the aim of restoring it to profitability.

Solidarity, which mostly represents white, Afrikaans-speaking employees, said it would "mean that the court can appoint a business rescue practitioner with comprehensive powers to rescue the airline."

(Reporting by Alexander Winning and Tim Cocks, Editing by William Maclean)

((alexander.winning@tr.com; +27 11 595 2801;))

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