WORKERS at Air Zimbabwe have threatened to paralyse operations at the national air carrier next week if management doesn’t accede to their demand for a 300% wage hike.
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The Zimbabwe Independent was told yesterday that Air Zimbabwe managing director Rambai Chingwena had issued suspension letters to 20 workers’ leaders this week following strike action on Tuesday. But the company’s legal and corporate affairs manager said the matter has been “amicably resolved”.
The threat of industrial action follows clashes between management and workers last week over unremitted medical and pension contributions which management could not fully explain. Workers alleged that management had been diverting their money to other uses.
Sources involved in the negotiations revealed yesterday that the workers had opted for a fully-fledged strike next week if their wage demands were not met.
The national airline was rocked by a strike involving engineers in late 2002 that lasted five months and forced management to hire engineers from Zambia.
Workers and management were reportedly deadlocked this week, with Chingwena said to have initially offered the workers a 10% increment, which was rejected. The offer was raised to 20% but again there were no takers.
The airline’s legal and corporate affairs manager Arthur Manase yesterday denied that 20 workers were issued with letters of suspension. Sixteen workers had “certain measures” taken against them, he said, for having been absent from their posts. But, he added, the matter had been “amicably resolved”.
“There is peace and harmony and all workers are at their posts and it is business as usual,” he said.
Workers on Wednesday sought the assistance of recently appointed permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Karikoga Kaseke, who is said to have ordered the withdrawal of the suspension letters issued by Chingwena.
Kaseke yesterday confirmed meeting with Air Zimbabwe workers and the withdrawal of the suspension letters.
“The workers came to me with their issue,” said Kaseke. “But I explained to them that they should engage their management and negotiate in good faith before resorting to industrial action. They assured me that they were going to negotiate in good faith but also demanded that management reciprocate,” he said.
“I also called management and urged them to negotiate in good faith. As a starting point we agreed that the letters of suspension be withdrawn.”