What was supposed to be a vacation turned into an inconvenience for a mother from Mauritius who spent more money than she intended and endured emotional strain following a South African Airways (SAA) workers strike.
Heerah Jyotee said she resided in Mauritius and had come to the country for leisure but was extremely baffled by what she arrived to.
She said she arrived at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday to get a connecting flight to Cape Town but was disappointed by he experience.
“My experience was really bad. Yesterday I had a connecting flight to Cape Town and when I arrived, the flight was delayed. I went to customs to get my bags once I arrived at the counter, I was told they have a technical issue,” Jyotee said.
“I went to the next line, it was mixed up – a mess and I was then told that I was two minutes late and could not be checked in. The consultant made me queue again at British Airways counter. The agent who was later sent to help me did so but it was too late because the flight had already left.”
She said no one was willing to take responsibility for the glitch and as a result she had to book into a hotel with her four-month-old baby for the night after leaving the airport at 11pm.
“My baby has been agitated and crying this whole time. I will never come back to South Africa. I will not advise anyone to come here. I still have to go to Cape Town because I made all the bookings and reservations but honestly, my vacation has instead become more work,” Jyotee said.
Many customers stood in line at the airport, at the SAA Airways counters to get refunded. Meanwhile a stone’s throw away, hundreds of workers picketed at the SAA airways Park the entire day.
Workers affiliated with The South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) which include commercial staff, technical staff, cabin crew and corporate workers said they were tired of the corruption which was happening at the airline.
The workers sang struggle songs and carried placards with messages such as: ‘We are not fools’, ‘planes must park and we must be heard’, and ‘Scrap all SOE (state-owned enterprise) boards.
Numsa's spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi Majola said previous talks collapsed because management did not want to listen to the plight of people. She said that the biggest cost for the airline was procurement at R25 billion a year.
“Some of the contracts are corrupt. Some of them are with inflated costing. There was committed by SAA to reviewing or canceling contracts that are financial burdens to the airline and this has not been done.”
She said that the strike would last until an agreement was reached.
Meanwhile SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali has confirmed that more than 200 flights had to be cancelled. The strike is expected to cost the carrier in excess of R100 million at a time when SAA is buckling under debt.
“We are here because we have had a deadlock with management. They have offered us a 5.9% increase. Tomorrow we at the CCMA to try and mediate.
"Unions and workers were not informed about the planned retrenchments. We only got a letter after the media broke the story,” Sacca president Zazi Sibanyoni-Mugambi said.
She said that it was not just about the 8% increase but it was to restore SAA to its former glory and change the management structure.
"We remain optimistic and continue to engage. They (workers) have informed us that they are willing to talk to us. We have now initiated a process where CCMA has to come on board in order to find a solution,” Tlali said.
– African News Agency