Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Air Zimbabwe grounded again following strike by pilots

A strike by Air Zimbabwe pilots entered its third day on Monday, crippling operations at the national flag carrier.
Pilots walked off the job on Friday after negotiations over salaries and allowances broke down. The airline’s regional manager for the UK and America, David Mwenga told SW Radio Africa he had been advised that as of Monday no agreement had been reached between the pilots, the airline board and management team. Mwenga said that “discussions between the stakeholders are ongoing with a view to get the pilots back to work.”
This is the second time in a month that pilots at the national airline have gone on strike demanding unpaid salaries and allowances for June and July.
The strike has left hundreds of passengers stranded on all its regional and international routes. Air Zimbabwe operates a daily Harare-Johannesburg route, a twice-weekly flight to London and a weekly flight to Beijing as its only international routes. All flights from the capital have been suspended due to the strike while the airline was forced to re-schedule some of its other flights.
The industrial action by the pilots is one of many to hit Air Zimbabwe in the last year alone. Two months ago, the airline was forced to cancel its flights to London and South Africa after fuel suppliers demanded up front cash payments until the carrier settled its debts. Apparently, the carrier owed US$1.6 million to fuel suppliers.
In May, 18 of its flights came to a halt for a week as the aircraft it was leasing from Zambezi Airlines was withdrawn over an unpaid US$460 000 debt. It is believed the national airline is crippled with more than US$100 million of debt, some of it accrued from a nearly month long strike between March 22 and April 20.