Helena Johannes and Andrew Kathindi

Government says it was never consulted by Air Namibia over its decision to cut workers’ salaries by 50 percent.

Public Enterprises Minister, Leon Jooste, told the Windhoek Observer that the decision to cut employees’ salaries who have not been going to work, by 50 percent, came as a surprise to him as “the Ministry was not consulted on the matter. We were not consulted on any of this.” The Minister further noted that “Air Namibia has been receiving monthly subsidies specifically for paying salaries.”

This revelation comes as the national flag carrier’s plan to cut salaries by 50 percent will forging ahead after Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Theo Mberirua revealed that airline will only be paying back employees who were wrongfully classified. “Only people who were wrongly classified will be repaid their salaries. People who did not work for a certain month, their salaries for months they did not work will be cut by 50 percent, but for months they have worked they will receive their 100 percent salary without any deduction,” Mberirua told Windhoek Observer.

Air Namibia began with the 50 percent salary cut on 26 September, a move which the interim boss said came with a number of errors that resulted in people who showed up for work having their pay slashed in half. “We are now in the process of rectifying their mistake,” he said.

Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (NATAU) member and Chairperson of the Shop Steward’s Committee at Air Namibia, Ndapewa Amupanda, confirmed that some workers who were mistakenly included in the cut have already received their full pay yesterday.

This comes after the affected Air Namibia employees, who are mainly pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, called for Mberirua to be removed from his position, accusing the CEO of only looking after the interests of himself and other top management.

“All we’re saying is, if management is cutting the salary of a cleaner who earns N$5 000, cut yours from N$100,000. Cut across the board, and then we can talk,” annoyed employee.

Mberirua however denied allegations that Air Namibia’s salary cuts plan is only for some employees, saying the 50 percent cut applies to everyone working for the company. “Even if there is a certain month that I did not work, my salary will be cut by 50 percent,” he said.

He added, “Where do you think Air Namibia can get money from if there was no work done for over six months?”

When questioned on how many people’s salaries were erroneously classified when it comes to salary cuts, Air Namibia Communication Officer, Twakulilwa Kayofa, said “This arrangement is an internal matter and we will not be in the position to discuss the technicalities with the media.”

He however said Air Namibia’s implementation of a 50 percent reduction in employee’s basic salary for the affected non-operational staff became effective last month. “The decision is in line with provisions of the Labour Act,” Kayofa said.

This comes as Amupanda told Windhoek Observer that NATAU was also never consulted on the decision to cut salaries in the first place. “There was never a union agreement or consultative meeting. They attempted to have a meeting by sending an invitation to the shop stewards via social media and as a chairperson I said we don’t get invitations through social media; we have an agreement with the company on how invitations are to be sent through to the union. We requested for that which they never did,” she said.

She added, “We had even suggested a date to them to have this meeting and it was all just fruitless.”