South African Airways (SA, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has warned its striking staff that their walk-out could jeopardise the struggling airline's survival, as the action will cost the flag carrier around ZAR50 million rand (USD3.39 million) per day.

According to reports from Reuters, the strike, which started on November 15 by unions representing more than half of its workforce - The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) - is ongoing and would continue indefinitely until the unions' demands, including an 8% wage increase and job security, are met.

The airline did attempt to dissuade the unions from embarking on industrial action by providing firm commitment dates to its 5.9% increased wage offer. SAA confirmed that discussions are continuing to resolve the wage dispute.

The decision to strike followed a statement to its employees earlier this week by the carrier of a restructuring that may lead to over 900 job losses, as it tries to halt severe losses. SAA, which has not turned a profit since 2011, is also without a permanent CEO.

“We are left with no choice but to resort to this drastic action by withdrawing our labour and going on strike,” Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam, president of SACCA, told a joint press briefing with NUMSA on November 13.

Deon Fredericks, the airline's acting Chief Financial Officer, told the eNCA news channel that SAA, hurt by previous mismanagement, could not just close its eyes and carry on. “We’ll just go deeper down,” he said.

The ailing carrier is presently negotiating with financial institutions on securing the funds it needs to stay operational. Fredericks said SAA would not survive without the cash injection, and the financial impact of the strike could harm the talks.

In a media release issued on November 14, SAA asked passengers who had been booked to travel on its flights on November 15 and 16 not to turn up at airports, but "instead follow the airline’s travel policy to exercise their rights following the cancellation of flights because of industrial action."

"Only flights operated by South African Airways will be affected by the industrial action," said Philip Saunders, SAA Chief Commercial Officer. "All flights operated on partner airlines, including South African Express (XZ, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), Mango Airlines (JE, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo), South African Airlink (4Z, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) and all codeshare partners, including flights operated by our Star Alliance partner airlines will not be affected."

Also on November 14, the carrier said that a “no-work-no-pay” principle will apply to all striking employees, but those who report for duty will be allowed to work.

“Those who participate in the strike action will not be permitted back to work until the strike is over,” said Martin Kemp, Acting SAA General Manager for Human Resources. “The rest of the employees who report for duty will be allowed to work,” he continued.

According to the ch-aviation capacities module, SAA and its partners are scheduled to operate 377 flights and 30,000 seats on November 15 and 237 flights and 21,500 seats on November 16. However, SA Airlink and SA Express will still be operating their combined 385 planned frequencies and 18,638 seats over the two days.