$4m required for pilots

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Air Zimbabwe acting chief executive officer Innocent Mavhunga on Monday said the airline required at least $4 million to pay striking pilots.

Speaking before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructure Development, Mavhunga said the job action by the pilots was illegal as they did not follow procedure.

“At least $4 million should be made available before pilots can resume work,” said Mavhunga.

“We could not raise 50% of the money. We raised $3,2 million for the repair of damaged aircraft and also borrowed $800 000 from the CBZ, which was disbursed to pilots and other staff.”

He said 80% went to pilots and engineers while 20% was given to the rest of the staff.

Management signed an agreement with the pilots to pay at least 50% of their salary arrears by September last year.

However, the company had as of January this year managed to pay 42% of the salary arrears.

“The strike by pilots has had a negative impact on the company’s image, the country and industrial relations within the corporation were left sour. All the four contracts with the ZFTA (pilots’ union) were entered into under duress and the pilots have not considered the company’s capacity to pay them as it is not in a position to settle all the arrears simply because it does not have resources.”

He said in 2009 the salaries for pilots had been between $3 000 and $7 000, but as the performance of the airline declined, management saw it fit to reduce the salaries to between $1 000 and $1 500.

Mavhunga said there was need to recapitalise the airline before it could look for strategic partners.
He said for as long as the remuneration for pilots was pegged high, the airline would continue to experience challenges. Air Zimbabwe has a $108 million debt.

He said the company would continue to face viability challenges unless current problems facing the airline were addressed.

“Our planes do not have the modern facilities and are expensive to maintain. We have on numerous occasions aborted flights and incurred losses,” said Mavhunga.

Mavhunga said currently Air Zimbabwe had 49 pilots flying only two Boeing 767s, two Boeing 737s and one MA 60s craft.

“Having new planes, we believe, at some point we will be able to pay their salaries within six months. If we are capitalised this would mean, new routes, new partners and then salaries will increase,” said Mavhunga.