Air Namibia suspends union leaders

31 August 2018 | Labour

Air Namibia has suspended two executive members of the Namibia Cabin Crew Union (NCCU), effective from 29 August, presumably over their public criticism of the airline's intention to recruit foreign pilots.

The two union leaders, NCCU president Willem Christiaan and legal advisor Reginal Kock, last week expressed shock at the plan and urged the airline to recruit Namibian pilots.

The two received the suspension letters on Wednesday, a day after the letter was written. The letters, signed by the acting general manager for flight operations, Musenge Shebele, informed the two that they were suspended with pay pending the outcome of an investigation into alleged misconduct.

The president of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna), Paulus Hango, yesterday said the suspension was unlawful because the two had not been given an opportunity to argue why they should not be suspended.

Christiaan and Kock, accompanied by Olsen Kahiriri, who said he was Tucna's “special envoy to Air Namibia”, barged into acting managing director Mandy Samson's office on Wednesday to demand an explanation.

According to them, Samson said she was completely unaware of the suspensions.

“If the head does not know what the body does, are these people fit to run the organisation?” Christiaan questioned.

Christiaan said the NCCU believes that Air Namibia does not need foreign pilots, especially not at the proposed salary and benefit scales, while Namibian pilots have to make do with “slave wages”.

The union claims that Air Namibia is offering foreign pilots monthly tax-free salary packages of between N$138 695 and N$150 392. Christiaan said the NCCU had conducted an investigation and found that pilots on the airline's Embraer ERJ fleet were averaging between 12 and 20 hours' flight time per month, while the law allows 70 hours per month. He described this as poor human resource management.

“When we talk of 12 total duty hours, we are talking of four days of duty in a month! The other days in the month the pilots are just at home. And with this kind of management our Namibian pilots will never be skilled enough to eventually replace the foreigners currently flying,” Christiaan said.

He said the NCCU had shared its concern over the alleged poor management of Namibian pilots at affirmative action committee meetings in 2015 already. The NCCU said there is currently only one black captain on Air Namibia's international fleet, the Airbus 330, while there are 13 foreign and nine Namibian pilots on the Airbus 319 fleet.

“And the airline wants to employ more foreigners! How can this be after 28 years of independence?” Christiaan asked.

Tucna and NCCU have threatened mass action at Air Namibia's head office next week if the suspensions are not withdrawn within 24 hours.

Air Namibia said it would respond to questions on the suspensions by tomorrow.

CATHERINE SASMAN

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