There is a strong police presence at the South African Airways (SAA) headquarters in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg, where striking workers affiliated to National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Cabin Crew Association have started to picket.

The workers have embarked on an indefinite strike after wage negotiations deadlocked. They are demanding an 8% salary increase and have rejected SAA’s wage offer of 5.8% – calling it a sham.

Numsa says SAA has continued to spend R 25 billion in procurement annually at the expense of staff.

The unions have also come out against any retrenchments at SAA after the airline said it planned to implement its restricting plans which will result in cutting more than 900 jobs.

In KwaZulu-Natal, operations are running normally at the King Shaka International Airport in Durban despite the nationwide SAA strike.

King Shaka spokesperson Collin Naidoo says contingency plans in place in case the situation changes.

“Everything is normal, the airport is fully operational, passengers are at the airport checking in for flights. There has been no disruptions or any major operational delays, and we’re hoping that it will stay this way… but we have contingencies in place, and we’re working very closely with the airlines affected to make sure passengers are put in other airlines and to make sure that no passengers are left stranded in airports.”

In the Eastern Cape, there are are no visible signs of the strike by SAA employees at the Port Elizabeth airport. Passengers have been  checking in at the counters of the other airlines.  SAA flights have not been displayed on the notice monitors.

All the other airlines operating at the airport have scheduled flights arriving and departing.

Meanwhile, the strike has negatively affected some passengers. They are complaining that they have to buy other tickets to fly out of the country. Amongst them is a man whose sister was supposed to fly to Kinshasa in the DRC but, is now stuck in South Africa.

“Her visa is expiring today (Friday) – she was supposed to leave the country. If she can’t leave the country she will be into trouble. We are now trying to communicate with them if they can take her to the immigration and explain to them. They say they can’t do anything now, we have to wait until they finalise everything. We understand they are striking, but the visa is expiring today, and they can’t help. Now we have to find  money and buy a ticket so that she can fly. That is the problem we are having right now.”

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