Taxi drivers at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg say they have been hit hard by the South African Airways (SAA) strike.

The airline’s workers have downed tools to demand an 8% salary increase while SAA is offering 5.9%, subject to the availability of funds.

Metered taxi drivers hope the situation will improve as the day progresses.

SAA has conceded that the arrangements it has made for its stranded passengers are not perfect. However, the airline says it will continue to monitor the situation to see where there it can make improvements.

SAA has cancelled nearly all domestic, regional and international flights Friday and Saturday following an announcement by the South African Cabin Crew Association and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa that their members will embark on what they are calling ‘the mother of all strikes’ on Friday morning.

The dispute comes after the airline refused to give in to their salary demands and started consultations about the implementation of its restructuring plan which will lead to the retrenchment of more than 900 staff.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali says, “Where we are able to secure accommodation elsewhere, in terms of other airlines, we will do so; we’ll also engage with them, those carriers that are able to deploy aircraft that have a bigger capacity to accommodate as many passengers as possible; based on the demand we’ll continue to engage with them. We’ll keep an eye on the situation, if it means in the absence of a bigger aircraft, those are the options that we look into in order to alleviate or to mitigate the impact.”

South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has joined the striking workers who are protesting outside the SAA headquarters.

President Zwelinzima Vavi addressed the striking workers at the SAA headquarters in Kempton Park.

“They are losing R50 million according to what they have told the public, and they will lose another R50 million because they have cancelled the flights for two days. We insist that there must be negotiations and we are calling upon management to come to the table. Tonight (Friday) we can settle the strike we can resume official job and save R50 million.”

Meanwhile, the Cabin Crew Association’s president Zaza Nsibanyoni says they are ready to be part of the CCMA’s mediation process,

Nsibanyoni says, “We were given a section one notice which indicated that we are going to the CCMA. We are open to negotiations and we know that it’s gonna be tomorrow (Friday), so we are going to be there to try and find a solution.”

Additional reporting by Amina Accram.