AIR Zimbabwe has settled for a compromise arrangement with workersâ€™ representatives to introduce a short working hour and shift regime in a bid to reduce the wage bill by about 50%.
This will take effect from June 1 and the airline has pleaded for co-operation from affected staff.
Air Zimbabwe is battling to meet its expenditure and has been operating at 40% capacity for the past five years.
In an internal circular written on May 19 and seen by businessdigest, Air Zimbabwe said it has been experiencing operational problems for a long time and implementing a shorter working regime might lessen its financial burden.
Reads the circular: â€œThe situation has not improved quickly and Air Zimbabwe is now unable to meet its expenditure including salaries. In discussions held with representative employee bodies, itÂ has been agreed to reduce the salary bill by 50%Â in addition to other costs reductionÂ and revenue generation measures already implemented.
â€œIn order to give effect to thisÂ arrangement, members of staff are advised thatÂ Air Zimbabwe will introduce shift and short time work with effect from June 1, 2009.â€
The latest move comes after Air Zimbabwe failed to send half of its workers on unpaid leave at the beginning of May.
Management was left with little choice but to reach a compromise, but morale is at an all-time low as workers are not certain as to who would be affected.
The airline pleaded for co-operation: â€œGiven the complexity of the exercise and the reality of the challenges theÂ airline requests and expects understanding from all employees in the interest of all staffâ€¦â€ read the circular.
Last Monday Air Zimbabwe chief executive officer Peter Chikumba confirmed the airlineâ€™s poor financial position when he told a Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Infrastructure that Air Zimbabwe foreign debt stood at close to US$28 million.
The amount excludes the US$50 million (plus interest) it owes suppliers of Chinese made MA60s it acquired in 2005, he told the committee.
Â He said a rescue business plan has been submitted to government for possible funding.
Air Zimbabwe is incurring US$4 million losses every month and government is understood to have advised the airline to search for a technical partner.
Minister of Finance, Tendai Biti when presenting his national budget saidÂ AirÂ Zimbabwe was making weekly appeals of US$1 million to the treasury.
Insiders at the airline this week said morale was low due to uncertainty on the pending shorter working hours.
It is unclear how many workers would be affected and the duration of the agreement.
BY NQOBILE BHEBHE