AIR Zimbabwe (AirZim)’s restructuring exercise suffered a major setback this week after workers rejected a retrenchment package meant to facil
itate the unbundling of the airline.
The workers have since threatened to block the exercise unless their demands are met.
Sources said the restructuring exercise also ran into difficulties after a key consultant, Brian Maphosa, appointed to oversee the process, left in a huff last week after clashing with worker representatives.
Businessdigest understands that Maphosa withdrew his services last Friday after being frustrated by workers who were protesting against the restructuring and the package.
It is understood that Maphosa left the airline after he was verbally abused last week by workers from the engineering department which is made up of artisans who are mostly war veterans.
Sources said Maphosa was insulted by worker representatives at the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Tuesday last week.
Board chairman Mike Bimha confirmed that Maphosa had left but said he was not aware of the reasons.
“Yes he gave me his letter last week. I will be meeting him today to discuss the matter,” Bimha said.
Trouble at AirZim started immediately after the restructuring process was announced early last month.
The process involved the unbundling of the airline into four companies, but Bimha announced that the group’s workforce would be significantly trimmed.
Workers’ organisations, which include Zimbabwe Aircraft Maintenance Engineers Association (Zamea), National Air Workers Union (Nawu) and Air Transporters Union (Atu) rejected AirZim’s offer.
The voluntary retrenchments are part of the airline’s efforts to cut its bloated wage bill which has caused massive losses.
AirZim had offered to pay a two-month severance package plus three months’ salary instead of notice. It had also offered a gratuity package of a month’s pay for every year served and three months of medical cover.
The workers have rejected the package. They are demanding a severance package of six months instead of two months. They also insisted that the gratuity package should be raised from one to three months and the medical cover increased to six months.
There are now fears that AirZim could be forced into compulsory retrenchment to reach its target to lay off 360 workers.
“We have no problem with the unbundling, what we are saying is that the package is too small,” said one of the workers’ representatives. “We worked for them and we deserve to be rewarded. We got the airline to where it is now.”
The worker representatives are lobbying the Minister of Transport and Communications, Christopher Mushohwe, to block the restructuring.
They met Mushohwe last week to present their concerns.
However, board member Luxon Zembe, who chairs the human resources committee, said the retrenchments would continue despite protests from workers.
He confirmed that some workers had sought the support of senior politicians to help them fight the retrenchments.
“It is good that some workers are now feeling the heat. We are happy because we have said that those who are not comfortable should leave,” Zembe said.
“No amount of political lobbying can stop this exercise. It was approved by the cabinet and everyone was involved,” he said.