(Harare)There was confusion yesterday as national airline Air Zimbabwe bosses were last night detained by workers who spent the night at work demanding payment of their outstanding salaries.
The workers who number up to 700 and constitute a large portion of Air Zim’s entire workforce virtually held the bosses hostage refusing to allow the leave until they were paid.
The airline’s acting group chief executive officer Mr Moses Mapanda and an official from the fina-nce department, Mr Nicholas Mujeri, detained by the workers.
The airline currently owes workers US$5,6 million in outstanding salaries.
A workers’ representative, who declined to be named, said they had not been paid for over five months and had no money for transport, food and rent.
Those who refused to go home yesterday include technical and non-technical staff.
“We are going to sleep here. Our colleagues have gone home claiming they are sick, while others said they wanted to take care of their young children.
“We have no money and we are not going anywhere,” he said.
The workers said management promised to give them US$200 as part payment of the outstanding salaries, but ran out of money during the day.
Some of the 409 workers, who were retrenched recently, were part of the workers that held the overnight vigil.
However, Mr Mapanda said the workers were not on a full-scale strike.
He, however, confirmed that they had problems in paying workers’ salaries on time.
“We are in the meantime doing some interim payments and we do not have money to pay them all. We pay as we make the money and we are targeting to pay them all in two weeks.
“We started paying them US$200 since Friday last week from the sales that we are making and we have covered over 50 percent of them,” said Mr Mapanda.
There are 700 workers who are yet to be paid varying amounts in outstanding sala-ries.
Recently, Airzim planes were grounded as pilots went on strike demanding to be paid outstanding salaries.
The state-owned airline’s problems have built up over the last decade owing to mismanagement, ageing planes and delays in changing the airline’s ticketing policy from the worthless Zimbabwe dollar to the multi-currency system now in use since 2009. The Zimbabwe government’s failure to acquire new planes, say airline bosses, has given the advantage to its competitors. The airline, said to be making a US$3 million loss every month, was brought to its knees in September last year after pilots went on a two-week strike. A second walkout in March this year lasted a month. A senior manager at the airline said earlier this year: “The strike last September was catastrophic for the already struggling company. We have been playing catch-up since, and the second strike this year made that job doubly difficult.” (ZimEye)