It’s day one of a crippling strike at SAA, with workers gathering at major airports around the country.
Workers affiliated to unions Numsa and Sacca have started gathering in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban to mark the start of their indefinite work stoppage.
Workers are demanding an 8% salary increase, urgent insourcing and an end to retrenchments.
Around 3,000 of them are expected to take part in the strike.
Numsa’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said that the blame should be placed squarely at the door of management.
“They did nothing about the procurement spend which is actually the thing responsible for the financial crisis facing SAA. Now our demands are speaking directly to the problem affecting SAA. And we are saying that if the management of this airline is genuine about dealing with this financial crisis, then it will accept what we’re putting on the table.”
More than 50 SAA employees have gathered in the parking lot at SAA Airways Park in Kempton Park – most of them are cabin crew members who are usually up before sunrise for their shift which usually starts at 4am.
Workers are holding up placards with slogans that read: “Talk to us president”, “Scrap all SOE boards” and “Planes must park and we must be heard.”
Picketers are waving red Numsa flags, while a vuvuzela is blaring through the cool morning air here.
There’s a heavy police and metro police presence, with a police nyala stationed outside the parking lot.
Organisers said that more similar pickets were expected to get underway in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and at King Shaka Airport in KwaZulu-Natal.
SAA is already broke and this major setback is likely to sink to it further into financial turmoil.
SAA on Thursday announced the cancellation of all its flights for today and Saturday.
Travellers will either receive refunds, be accommodated on other airlines or have their flights rescheduled.
Spokesperson Tlali Tlali: “There will be no flights by SAA operated for Friday and Saturday. We are talking about a total of approximately 104 flights per day that will be operating in the domestic, regional – which is Africa – and the international segments of our route network.”
BUSINESS AS USUAL AT CAPE TOWN
At Cape Town International Airport, the Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) told Eyewitness News that there was no picket at the airport as yet (at 7am).
It appeared as if it was business as usual, but South African Airways check-in points are empty.
There are however some SAA staff members at the check-in points.
They said they’d been instructed to not speak to the media.
SACCA OPEN TO NEGOTIATIONS
The South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said they were still open to negotiations with SAA.
The labour group’s members were picketing outside SAA Airways Park this morning.
While the number of picketers was increasing by the minute, Sacca president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said they remained willing to speak to SAA management to go back to the drawing board.
“At SAA, we are here, we are always willing to talk. This is not our number one solution, we’re hoping that during the course of the day that they’ll talk to us so that we can resolve this thing once again.”
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