Hundreds of aircraft maintenance technicians with South Africa's national airline have put down their tools in the latest strike to hit the country, according to a union official.

About 1,300 technicians who repair and service aircraft at the SAA and are also used by other domestic and international carriers, including British Airways and Qantas, were involved in Monday's strike.

"Our members are striking for a double-digit salary increase of 12 percent," Vincent Masoga, spokesman for the South African Transport and Allied Union (SATAWU), told AFP news agency on Monday.

"There are pickets going on near the airport right now."

He said some members were picketing at OR Tambo International Airport, which would possibly affect operations of domestic and international flights that are contracted with SAA’s technical operations, the City Press newspaper reported.

There was no immediate comment from South African Airways (SAA).

Tlali Tlali, SAA spokesperson, said as far as he knew, numerous flights had taken off and landed at the airport, according to City Press.

"It's a bit early to tell if operations could be severely affected, but we have contingency plans in place," Tlali said.

He declined to comment on the wage negotiations, but maintained that it was a transparent process between the unions and the employer.

No talks through media

Tlali said SAA would make an offer that would be sustainable. "We are not in the habit of conducting our wage talks through the media," he said.

"But the unions have been told to [take] the company’s current financial situation into account, as the international climate of airlines, at the moment, also affects us."

The Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), which handles some 650 departing flights, said it was taking measures to minimise any disruptions.

ACSA is "monitoring the situation closely across its network of nine airports and ... will utilise its resources to provide support to the airlines in order to minimise any potential operational disruptions," it said in a statement.

The action is just one of the latest in a wave work of stoppages in South Africa.

About 30,000 car-industry workers have been on strike for a week, crippling domestic production.

Construction industry employees are expected to halt work from this week. They are likely to be followed by workers in the gold mining and textile sectors.

Such strikes are common at this time of the year in South Africa, when annual wage negotiations take place.

Source: Agencies