Pilots operate without contracts

07 Jun, 2016 - 00:06 0 Views

The Herald

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Air Zimbabwe pilots have been operating for the past three years without contracts after the national airline stopped paying them salaries, but allowances owing to the harsh operating environment, legislators heard yesterday.

The pilots, who appeared before a parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development chaired by Chegutu West MP Cde Dexter Nduna (Zanu-PF) said they remained committed to offer their services despite the environment.

Zimbabwe Flight Crew Association chairperson, Captain Otis Shonai said Air Zimbabwe unilaterally reduced their salaries in 2009 before subsequently putting them on allowances both of which it was struggling to pay.

“Even to this day, there is no working contract. We are on allowances but we have been professional enough to do our best to bring people to their destinations safely. Our salaries have been far below the industry. When I say industry, I mean some local companies but we still fly the same planes. We have to pay the price of working for a national airline. One thing that we can guarantee you, is that we will continue to be committed to our work,” said Capt Shonhai.

The low morale, he said, had resulted in skills flight as the national airline remained with 35 pilots with 10 having left recently.

Capt Shonhai said they had since mounted a court action challenging the decision by management to unilaterally reduce their salaries in 2009 and the case was still pending.

Government, he said, could also help them by giving them non-monetary benefits like farms, residential stands among others.

He said they have observed over the years that pilots were not represented on the Air Zimbabwe board neither were they consulted during the planning stage, yet they constituted the core business of the company.

“We have had so many boards in the past few years and in most of them, no one had knowledge of aviation. When you have a group of people deciding on your safety when they do not have requisite knowledge you are doing yourself a disservice. We have so many retired pilots and many who have worked for renowned airlines,” he said.

“There is micro-management from the ministry. We have seen new airlines getting licenses to ply the route which the national airline is going. Nowhere in the world do you see this. We should be given right of first refusal; a national airline has to be protected. A national airline is a permanent feature whereas a private airline will go where the money is,” said Capt Shonhai.

He implored Government to ensure that Air Zimbabwe management is run by people who have substantive posts, saying that currently the bulk of them were acting.

Capt Shonhai said it was critical that Government and stakeholders know that airlines the world over were not cash cows, but were economic drivers of various sectors.

“We urge people to understand airlines from that perspective,” he said.

Capt Shonhai implored Government to resuscitate the Harare-London route and increased presence in other routes saying that would raise revenue.

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