Air Namibia pilots’ strike ends

WINDHOEK: Striking pilots who caused Air Namibia losses of about N.dollars 65 million over a period of nearly two weeks of their industrial action, returned to work on Thursday. The Air Namibia management and members of the Namibia Airline Pilots’ Association (Napa) finally agreed on a 5 per cent increment to end the stalemate that had caused reductions, suspensions and cancellations of various domestic and regional flights for the national airliner.

International flights to Frankfurt, Germany continued, with a few disruptions. “We have finally agreed to the five per cent, and decided to go back to work,” said Napa president Christian Schneider in a telephonic interview on Friday.

This is in addition to the 3 per cent that pilots receive annually. Operations will continue as normal, despite a backlog of hundreds of passengers over the period of the strike. Napa accused the Air Namibia management of “turning a blind eye to the huge losses the company suffered on a daily basis”.

The union also gave the assurance to company management that the pilots were ready to return to work “the minute a settlement had been reached.” Schneider also warned that flight cancellations were damaging to the airline and the country’s economy.

Before the agreement was reached, the union also warned that more flights would be cancelled as (foreign) pilots have reached the legal limits of flying duty. Operators at the airline during the industrial action included 13 foreign-contracted pilots, 17 foreign ad hoc-contracted pilots and 81 permanent Namibian pilots.

Air Namibia Head of Corporate Communications, Paulus Nakawa, explained before the agreement was signed between the parties that there had been ongoing negotiations between the parties, and that the offer on the table was reasonable.

“Air Namibia’s offer is reasonable in relation to Namibia’s inflation rate and the company’s dire financial circumstances, which do not even allow the company to grant any increases,” he stressed then. The last salary increase of 9.2 per cent was effected in July 2010 and not 2009 as alleged, according to Nakawa.