As yet, South Africa’s international airports have been unaffected by a strike by the Public Servants Association of SA (PSA), which had been expected to cause disruptions in immigration processing and other key government functions such as at Home Affairs.
The PSA, which represents more than 235 000 workers, started its strike on Thursday and is demanding a wage increase of 6.5% – more than double the 3% government said it will implement unilaterally.
Speaking to Moneyweb, PSA spokesperson Claude Naicker said key government departments and especially Home Affairs and border control immigration services at the airports would be affected.
But by Thursday afternoon, operations at all three major international airports in the country continued as normal, as the impact of the strike had not filtered through, according to Gopolang Peme, group manager for communications at Airports Company South Africa (Acsa).
“Operations are normal [with] no impact of strike action. All agencies remain on alert as the situation can change through the day. This is the status at all three [major] international airports,” said Peme.
However, Peme said the company is encouraging passengers to arrive early “to give us more time to process them in the event we may require more time”.
Read: Finance Minister: Public service wage bill risk to SA’s fiscal framework
In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Department of Public Service and Administration said public services would operate normally and be accessible to the public.
It reiterated that an increase of 3% would be paid into the accounts of workers and that a monthly gratuity payment of R1 000 will be paid until 31 March next year.
In contrast, Naicker said government’s offer would be more favourable if the gratuity payment terms were renegotiated, saying the PSA would like for it to be extended.
“The biggest problem at the moment is the cash gratuity which comes to an end on 31 March 2023. Unfortunately, the 3% is part of the package deal with the cash gratuity. I think if the cash gratuity continues next year, whilst we finalise negotiations for next year or if there’s a delay, then members will not be out of pocket,” Naicker said.
More workers may join strike
The country’s public healthcare workers under the Health & Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) – who are demanding an increase of 10% – have now indicated they are willing to go on strike, Hospersa Gauteng spokesperson Mbuso Shozi said.
A strike by the more than 52 000 workers it represents would affect services in clinics, hospitals, laboratories and government mortuaries.
Now attention will focus on other unions, such as the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), which plans to hold a briefing in the next week.
Listen to Fifi Peters’s interview with PSA labour relations manager Jannie Oosthuizen (or read the transcript here):