Air Zimbabwe Pilots Down Tools Again

Harare, – Passengers who wanted to fly Air Zimbabwe planes were left stranded Friday after the pilots and other staff members went on strike demanded to be paid their December salaries and other outstanding allowances dating back to 2009.

Sources from Air Zimbabwe told RadioVOP that all the flights that were scheduled for Friday morning were cancelled on short notice after the pilots remained in the airport’s car park demanding the salaries be paid before the Christmas holiday.

“The salaries that the pilots are talking about have been owed from last year. Right now they are in meetings with management and I don’t think they will get an agreement today,” said a source adding that the December salaries have also not been paid.

"In their last agreement with the employer which happens to be the government, it was agreed that they will be paid 50 percent immediately with the remainder staggered over six months but the time has come and payments have not been made,” said the source based at Air Zimbabwe headquarters at the airport.

A group of pilots could be seen milling around the car park at the company’s headquarters when Radio VOP visited the Harare International Airport. A few confused passengers were also milling around the airport terminal waiting for news on the flights.

Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer Peter Chikumba confirmed the job action but added that they will have to take the matter to their lawyers because they were not given a notice by the pilots.

“In terms of the law the pilots should notify management of a pending job action and that was not done,” said Chikumba.

Air Zimbabwe operates a Boeing 767 to Harare from London every Thursday and Monday night, and from Harare to London every Wednesday and Sunday morning.

It also operates flights on regional routes, mainly between Johannesburg and Harare and between Bulawayo and Johannesburg. It also operates domestic flights between the two major cities and the Victoria Falls.

Air Zimbabwe says it needs US$750 million to renew its fleet and match regional competitors, but the government is reluctant to give up shareholding to private investors who can mobilise the needed finance.

The airline lost thousands of dollars in revenue after the pilots went on strike again September demanding to be paid their outstanding salaries and allowances.

The airline’s chairman Jonathan Kadzura said: "I can’t talk to you much right now because I am in the middle of a strike, let me handle this right now and will be able to take your questions later." – Radio VOP