HARARE, June 6 (The Source) – Zimbabwe’s struggling national airline Air Zimbabwe is experiencing an exodus of skilled personnel because of poor working conditions, an official has said.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Flight Crew Association (ZFCA) Otis Shonhai told a parliamentary committee on transport that the airline was losing skilled personnel because of failure to pay competitive salaries.
“There is lack of interest to retain particular skill. We were 45 pilots at the start of the year and currently we are 35. We have lost 10 pilots to other airlines and we will probably lose more pilots in the coming months,” he said.
“We have gone for months without getting a salary even up to present day we do not have working contracts with the company. All we get is a working allowance. The medical aid sometimes works but most of the times it does not.”
According to industry sources, Air Zimbabwe currently has seven flights worthy planes – two Airbus A320s, three Boeing 737s and two Boeing 767s – servicing local and regional routes.
Shonhai added that there was need for the airline to reduce its non-flying workforce for it to operate efficiently.
Air Zimbabwe last year said it had a total staff compliment of 300 employees but as of February this year was still paying 333 workers who were dismissed in August last year as the airline could not afford to pay them retrenchment packages.
“With the current routes the numbers are just too much. The company is overstaffed in the wrong areas but in the critical areas it is understaffed,” said Shonhai.
Government has said it plans to reintroduce Air Zimbabwe’s lucrative Harare-London flights, which were stopped in December 2011 amid fears the airline’s planes could be seized over a $3 million debt owed to a navigation agency.
The government, which wholly owns the airline, has resolved to take over Air Zimbabwe’s $298 million debt in a bid to make the company attractive to potential strategic partners.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joram Gumbo last month said government had identified 12 potential partners but had not yet reached a deal with any of them. The new investor would come in “at par” with the government of Zimbabwe, which owns a 100 percent shareholding in AirZim.