Workers at Zimbabwe’s state-owned airline have gone on strike over pay, causing flight cancellations and leaving scores of passengers stranded, state media reported on Thursday.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper said Air Zimbabwe pilots and cabin crew walked out of work on Wednesday demanding payment of allowances that were cut off in February.
The work boycott, which left two planes abandoned on the runway at Harare International Airport, affected local and international flights, the newspaper reported.
“Air Zimbabwe, as an employer, cannot afford to pay the salaries being demanded by the pilots,” the carrier’s chairman, Jonathan Kadzura, told state television.
Even without the allowances, he said pilots were being paid at least $1,200 a month, a salary he called outrageously high given the state of the economy.
Air Zimbabwe is a perennial loss-maker weighed down by an ageing fleet, debt and the effects of a decade-long economic crisis in the southern African country.
The carrier is currently embroiled in a legal dispute over its move last year to shed over 500 jobs in a bid to cut costs.
A government prospectus published last year showed Air Zimbabwe needed $750 million to renew its fleet and install a hangar fire protection system. Under the plan, the government would give up a 60 percent stake in exchange for the cash injection.
Air Zimbabwe’s passenger numbers have declined by more than 30 percent since 2000.
This coincided with a sharp drop in tourist arrivals as the country plunged into a political and economic crisis blamed on President Robert Mugabe’s violent sezure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.