Air Zimbabwe pilots have been summoned

Air Zimbabwe pilots have been summoned for a disciplinary hearing at the national airline’s headquarters today and unconfirmed reports say management has ordered them to surrender all company assets in their possession.As the airline’s problems mount, another group of workers issued threats to join the strike if the company failed to pay them their outstanding salaries by September 30. Sources yesterday disclosed that management served the pilots with letters summoning them for disciplinary hearings.

The pilots are being charged with contravening Statutory Instrument 15 (2006) of the Nati-onal Employment Code of Conduct. “They are being charged under Statutory Instrument 15 (2006) Section 4 (a) and (b) of the National Employment Code of Conduct,” a source said.

Under Section 4 (a) and (b) of the code of conduct, the pilots face charges of “willful disobedience to a lawful order” and for “an act of conduct or omission inconsistent with the fulfilment of the expressed or implied conditions of contract”. Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer Dr Peter Chikumba declined to shed light on the development when contacted for comment yesterday.

“At the moment, we do not have a position to discuss with newspapers. There are no new developments worthwhile to discuss with newspapers,” he said.The National Airways Workers’ Union immediately declared the disciplinary hearings illegal. “The hearings are not in terms of the law and the National Airways Workers’ Union will not be part and parcel of the unlawful acts,” said a senior member of the union who declined to be named.

Added the union member: “The fact that they (pilots) have been ordered to surrender everything that belongs to Air Zimbabwe such as uniforms means that they are no longer employees of Air Zimbabwe in the eyes of management. As a union, we will not take part in this illegality.”

The development comes at a time when other Air Zimbabwe workers have reportedly given management up to September 30 to settle their salary arrears. “They have given management up to the end of this month to settle their salary arrears and are threatening unspecified action,” another source said.

While the union was evasive on the matter yesterday, The Herald is reliably informed that the employees intended to also down tools if management failed to address their concerns. The strike by the pilots started on Wednesday last week. Air Zimbabwe planes have been grounded for a week now, costing the national airline US$3,5 million.

The pilots are demanding payment of retention allowances they are owed. Air Zimbabwe deferred paying the allowances in February last year following the introduction of the multi-currency regime in a bid to manage cash flows.

The national airline owes pilots, managers, engineers, active workers and workers on the retrenchment list almost US$9 million. Last Friday, management gave the pilots a 24-hour ultimatum to return to work or face dismissal which they defied. Efforts by management to engage the pilots also failed.A captain earns an average US$12 000 but is getting US$3 500, with the rest being deferred until the company can pay. Because of cash flow problems, Air Zimbabwe has been paying its other employees half their salaries for sometime now. Yesterday, the pilots would not confirm whe-ther it was true that management summoned them for a hearing today.

“I have also heard about that, but I need to go home first and double check if it is true (that the letters were delivered at their respective homes),” one of the pilots said. He said the pilots would release a statement at the appropriate time detailing what exactly triggered the industrial action. Meanwhile, the airline has resumed normal service on all local routes as well as the Harare-Johannesburg using hired planes.

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