The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: ZCTU in Bid to Ground Airzim

Harare — THE Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions is plotting to institute an International Transport Workers' Federation boycott of Air Zimbabwe flights, a strategy the national carrier described as tantamount to sabotage.

This follows a labour dispute at the parastatal in which over 400 employees were retrenched.

ZCTU wants airport staff on routes Air Zimbabwe plies not to attend to the airline on landing and intends to effect this before its general council meeting on April 24.

Yesterday, ZCTU secretary-general Mr Wellington Chibebe confirmed the plot.

Air Zimbabwe group chief executive officer Dr Peter Chikumba said: "We may have operational or industrial relations problems but any action that worsens the business performance of the airline can only be tantamount to sabotage and would not be serving the interests of the very employees that we may claim to represent.

"No door has been closed to negotiations. We have not exhausted all the avenues to find a solution and we, therefore, discourage anybody to engage outsiders to destroy our own company.

"This view is shared by all progressive thinking Zimbabweans."

The Employers' Confederation of Zimbabwe, which has been dragged into the dispute, was yesterday battling to stop ZCTU from instituting its plan.

Emcoz executive director Mr John Mufukare said: "It is not a solution. As Emcoz we are anxious to sit down and engage Air Zimbabwe management over the issue."

ZCTU passed the resolution in December 2009 in a bid to force Air Zimbabwe to suspend the retrenchment of 409 of its 1 300 workers.

Four times, workers have won arbitration and court challenges opposing the retrenchments.

Yesterday, the workers again reported for duty and demanded to be allowed to access their workstations.

Mr Chibebe conceded that their proposed action would harm Air Zimbabwe.

"As the ZCTU, there is a general council resolution that the issue of Air Zimbabwe should be reported to regional and international airlines for the international community to boycott Air Zimbabwe.

"We want workers at international airports where Air Zimbabwe lands to refuse to attend to them until they follow the process of the law at home.

"That is the reason why we had taken the initiative to engage management at Air Zimbabwe to avoid such a development. We had to go through Emcoz.

"There is likelihood Air Zimbabwe will be sanctioned before our general council meeting set for April 24 if it remains adamant.

"We know it will be catastrophic for Air Zimbabwe, it being the only airline," he said.

Air Zimbabwe human resources manager Mr O. Madziwa on Monday served the workers with letters evicting them from their workstations.

"This letter serves to confirm that you are an employee of Air Zimbabwe Holdings on full salary and benefits.

"Air Zimbabwe Holdings is doing everything within its powers to find the resources in order to pay arrears salaries to all affected employees.

"Pending conclusion of the labour matters currently in the courts regarding the proposed retrenchment exercise for which you are earmarked, you are hereby instructed to remain at home.

"This is with immediate effect and please take note of this lawfully given instruction by the employer.

"You are expected to leave your workstation by 1100 hours today."

The workers defied the directive and reported for duty.

According to the National Airways Workers Union, nine managers, 20 engineers, eight pilots -- three of them captains and five first officers -- and 48 flight attendants are among the 409 employees that Air Zimbabwe is trying to retrench.

The employees say they are owed US$4 million in unpaid salaries and benefits.

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