Namibia: Grounded Air Namibia Staff Reject 50 Percent Pay Cut

(File photo).
9 September 2020

The Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU) has accused Air Namibia's interim CEO and his management team of having declared war with the airline's workers following a notice of 50% salary reduction for staff who have been grounded due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a letter to trade unions representing airline staff, Air Namibia's interim CEO, Theo Mberirua, explained that the fixed operational costs were making it difficult for management to conceive ways to guarantee the survival of the beleaguered airline.

"Apart from funding and liquidity challenges, the fixed costs (aircraft leases, maintenance cost, salaries, fuel) far exceed the revenue generated over the same period.

"This negatively affected the cash flow base of the airline, to the extent that continued domestic operations are jeopardised," Mberirua stated in the letter to the unions.

He further advised that union consultation with respect to the reduction in salaries is premised squarely on the fact that Air Namibia has basically been non-operational for the past five months and has still managed to meet the majority of its financial operations during this period, including the payment of salaries.

Mberirua stressed that the financial situation reached a point where the airline is incapable of meeting obligations, some geared towards addressing critical commitments to creditors whilst at the same time paying salaries in full.

Mberirua further noted that the reduction of salaries is in line with relevant legislation "whilst this very unfortunate state of affairs is prevalent".

However, president of the NCCU, Reginald Kock, pointed out that other airlines, such as Ethiopian Airlines and the Lufthansa Group will soon start operating flights to Windhoek.

Ethiopian Airlines have indicated they will start operating to Namibia as from 11 September 2020, while the Lufthansa Group's Eurowings is expected to start flying to Namibia as from 20 September 2020.

"It was expected that the unions would propose alternative cost containment measures rather than cutting salaries of employees. In fact, the unions had various meetings with the Ministerial Committee of Treasury, led by finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi, to discuss the future of the airline and the employees of the airline. It was during one such meeting that assurance was given by the committee that workers will not take the blame for the non-operation of the airline," said Kock in a media statement.

Kock also charged that during the lockdown periods, various parties approached Air Namibia to operate commercial and cargo flights on their behalf.

"... but the failure of the interim CEO and his management to capitalise on these opportunities costs us valued revenue. Now our members have to take the fall for the failure of the interim CEO and his management team to secure business. To date, no plans have been formulated for us to initiate any sort of operations. They failed the airline, its employees and the nation. The interim CEO and his management team should do the honourable thing and resign," Kock stated.

The NCCU president added that the Labour Act provisions never catered for the unprecedented global pandemic impact currently faced by the aviation industry.

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