Air Zimbabwe Owes Workers $ 40 Million

The struggling airline owes its workers a staggering $35, 415, 731.80at the end of last year.

The figure is rising fast and might now be around $40 million when the 2012 dues are factored into the picture. The workers have gone for four months without pay.

Air Zimbabwe has about 1000 employees on its books.

A summary of January 2009-December 2011 salary arrears lodged before the High Court by the workers as part of their application  to have the struggling airline put under judicial management shows that Air Zimbabwe owe all of its workers varying amounts of money.

According to the summary of worker’s debts – pilots are owed $3, 043, 406.28, engineers $7,266, 293.28, general staff $ 5,161,559.10, executives $ 448, 029.40, workers pension contributions $ 4,361, 668.12, NSSA contributions $ 403, 184.78, PAYE $14, 180,411.66, ZIMDEF contributions $ 551, 179.11.

 Air Zimbabwe also owes its workers most of whom are no longer going to work approximately $ 60 000 in union dues and subscriptions. This is the money that the airline deducted from worker’s salaries but failed to forward the money to the union in terms of a standing collective bargaining agreement.

In addition the respondents have failed to pay all their statutory obligations to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA).

The workers allege that Air Zimbabwe lacks a proper governance structure saying the company’s board of directors is “moribund and a mere stooge.”

“This is regardless of the fact that things have not been well at the company, workers are not being paid. Apparently the employer is not keen to run his business. The respondents’ board of directors has abdicated all sense of responsibility in running the affairs of the company and the respondents’ bankruptcy has hit rock bottom,” the workers said in their application to the High Court.

In addition the workers said,” the company directors are mere window dressing figures of the sinking titanic who have woefully failed to avert the crisis haunting the respondents. How can a company run without active and functional directors who meet regularly to find ways to enhance their organisations?”

“There has been no meaningful works council meetings convened since January 2009. As such the workers do not know whether the respondents books of accounts have been audited or not. To make matters worse, the respondents have literally paralysed the national employment council for the air transport industry by cannibalising some of its members and demonstrating utter disdain of its structures,” the workers said.

While arguing that the company should be put under judicial management, the workers said the company has become so cash strapped that management seem to have given up.

“The companies have many other non –employee creditors such that credit worthiness has been damaged and all their business partners demand cash up front. Recently one of the respondents’ aeroplanes was attached at an overseas airport as a result of an unpaid debt,” the workers said.

“Failure to pay salaries and union subscriptions is manifest evidence of mismanagement. If they were prudently run, the respondents could generate a lot of income from both domestic and international flights.”

The workers say unless the respondents are placed under provisional judicial management they will remain financially hamstrung.

“Given their asset base and the fact that the market is still available, it is submitted that if placed under provisional judicial management they will be able to pay their debts,” the workers concluded.