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Air Botswana retrenches 200 workers

Publishing Date : 31 October, 2016

Author : AUBREY LUTE

Air Botswana is set to retrench close to 200 employees as it embarks on a restructuring exercise. The process will be in two phases, first being the voluntary separation followed by retrenchment, employees were told through an employee brief signed by the Airliner’s Acting General Manager, Agnes Khunwane.

“This serves to update staff on the Organisational restructuring process. The Revised Organisational Structure will be shared with employees during this brief. The whole process will be implemented in two phases. The first phase entails voluntary separation and the second phase will be retrenchment where there would be redundancies occasioned by the new structure and competency assessments,” reads Khunwane’s brief to employees.    

According to Khunwane, the organisational structure review and alignment has been concluded albeit subject to business process re-engineering and new business plan. “The revised organisational structure requires 350 employees as opposed to the current headcount of 522. The revised structure identifies all positions that are mission critical and also highlights areas that are likely to be affected. It is against this background that the Corporation invites applications for voluntary separations,” the brief further states.

However contract employees; employees in key roles which are mission critical or high impact positions and are under the age of 45 and have served less than 20 years, and those that were appointed from April 2015 are not eligible for voluntary separation. 

Ms Khunwane further informed staff that Section 25 letters will be issued to all staff members excluding employees in mission critical positions, “notwithstanding that all employees aged 45 and above and have served the corporation for 20 years or more are eligible to apply for voluntary separation.”

According to inside sources the new structure highlights vulnerable positions that may be affected or become redundant and employees in these positions have been encouraged to apply for voluntary separation. The separation package for voluntary separation will be calculated at 26 days for each year worked plus normal terminal benefits approved by the Board subject to funding availability, said Ms Khunwane.

Meanwhile, employees have been told that management reserves the right to approve or not to approve any application for voluntary separation. A panel has been set to adjudicate on the applications and it has been given a criterion to follow when assessing applications.

As a word of caution, Khunwane has warned that some employees in the mission critical positions will also be affected, and in the event such as employee is affected they will be paid in accordance with the voluntary separation package.

Khunwane further shared that separation package for retrenchment separation will be calculated at 22 days for each year worked plus normal terminal benefits.

A further communication has indicated that it is expected that the minimum pay-out will be P50 000 under both voluntary and retrenchment processes. Upon separation a number of benefits that were accorded staff will cease immediately including Group Life and Accident cover, Training Bod. Employees have been informed that those with ordinary loans should settle them with banks.

SWEEPING CHANGES

These changes come at a time when Air Botswana is going through a number of changes, especially the possibility of the Airliner being transferred to the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism.

Air Botswana is also in the process of recruiting General Manager, and names are expected to be submitted to the Board in the near future. A contest between the Acting General Manager, Khunwane and former MVA Chief Executive Officer, Cross Kgosidiile is expected, although the former was said to have withdrawn her name from the shortlist prepared for Cabinet.

 Air Botswana is also working towards acquiring new fleet although the tendering process has been delayed after the Board was told to reverse an ongoing procurement process.

When engaging the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and Public Enterprises, Ms Khunwane had stated that they need about P2.3 billion for a fleet of seven aircrafts, saying currently the airline was leasing a jet aircraft which operates the Gaborone-Cape Town route at a cost of P3 million a month. The same route made losses of about P13 million.

Ms Khunwane also highlighted that they had not requested for funding, but that the minister was aware of their needs. A formal request has been submitted after a consultant that has been hired submitted a report on October 4.

A STRUGGLING AIRLINER

Meanwhile, Khunwane had confirmed that the airline has been operating at huge losses for years due to a number of challenges. Appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises on last month, Ms Khunwane said the airline had experienced a P165 millions loss as of March 2015.

She said their main challenge had been equipment failure and attributed P90 million of the total loss to maintenance costs. A number of aircrafts in the airline's fleet are old and are going through heavy airframe maintenance checks, and that most were grounded for good.

She nevertheless said there had been an improvement in regard to departure times which stands at 80 per cent. Ms Khunwane had said the board had come up with a five-year turnaround strategy which came into effect in March this year.

She said the organisation was working on a strategy that was expected to look at the airline's operations, including the rationalisation of route network and schedule, review of internal processes and procedures, use of technology to enhance delivery, fleet upgrade and equipment renewal

She, however, said she believed that the turnaround plan would be the one to bring back the airline into profitability.

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