Swazi civil aviation workers win wage battle despite ongoing employer dispute

December 19, 2013

ITF affiliates the Swaziland Transport & Allied Workers’ Union (STAWU) continued strike action against the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SWACAA) over a wage dispute last week. Meanwhile, STAWU secured a cost of living increase in a dispute with Swaziland Airlink on 17 December, putting further pressure on SWACAA to come to an agreement with the union.

The strike against SWACAA, which started on 12 December, was called in response to apparent employer intransigence over a living wage for workers. When the union asked for higher wages to reflect cost of living increases, SWACAA management claimed to be bound by government restrictions on what they could pay. Management also stated that any increases beyond their offer would need to be approved through a complex structure, ending in Cabinet of Ministers approval.

When the Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC) ruled deadlock, SWACAA implemented its proposed pay rise – without worker consultation. The union called a strike in response, and a number of those who took part were reported to be facing arrest.

This is not the first time that Swaziland’s trade union rights record has been in the spotlight. Back in June, the country was name-checked in an ITUC report on trade union rights abuses, with a special focus on the illegitimate arrests of union activists in light of their opposition to the absolute monarchy in the country.

STAWU industrial relations officer Sticks Nkambule yesterday praised ‘the constructive tone of engagement from the management team of Swaziland Airlink’. ITF Africa regional secretary Joseph Katende hailed the wage victory: “This is a great example of a constructive relationship between management and staff– we congratulate Swaziland Airlink on their engagement with workers. We hope that SWACAA learn from and follow this example.”

The dispute with SWACAA continues.

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