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No confidence in Air Botswana Executives - Union

Publishing Date : 13 January, 2020

Author : DAVE BAAITSE

The struggling national airline, Air Botswana which is currently undergoing a restructuring process, is facing another bombshell as the staff union threatens the prospects of passing a ‘motion of no confidence’ against the Executive Management Committee.


Through a letter addressed to the company’s General Manager, through her Executive, the Union has submitted grounds of passing the motion which may also affect the board. The Union expressed their displeasure and disappointment at the status of the struggling airline and confirmed having made efforts of engaging with the management with respect to various worrisome conditions but unfortunately their efforts have failed, thus they resorted to petition the Executive.


Air Botswana Employees Union (ABEU), which is an affiliate of Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU), in the letter listed a number of reasons which led to them resolving to a motion of no confidence against Air Botswana Executive.  Amongst other reason, the union is accusing the management of failed organisational restructuring. They state that in 2016, when the restructuring was proposed, an approved structure promised to have a staff number of 350 employees across Air Botswana.


Additionally, the organisation opted and continued to replace restructured staff by recruiting externally which the Union believe was a more expensive alternative to which they believe contradicts the whole objective. The union also accused the management of failure to implement proposed business systems. They say as a mitigating initiative against staff shortage due to restructuring process, one of the initiatives management proposed was to implement the latest business friendly operating systems, but however not all areas within the organisation have been addressed leading to some staff members being overwhelmed by the workload.


“In some area our members have noted that they have been given the roles and responsibility of restructured staff on top of their initial responsibilities without amending their compensations or reviewing their contracts. This has led to deepening employee dissatisfaction with their working conditions compromised and the overall productivity of some divisions, due to some of these poor working conditions,” the petition stated.


Another reason advanced by the union is the 27% gap disparity. Despite initially approving the Tsa Badiri Report in 2015 and promising to implement the recommendations thereof, management has failed to keep their promise, which led to a court battle between the union ABEU and Air Botswana, which presents a looming obligation against an already struggling Air Botswana, this they believe could have been averted.


ABEU however points out that, management opted for an arrogant and stubborn approach to the handling of the matter which has hurt the relationship between employees and management, and contributed to the growing disgruntlement of employees against their employer. Despite ABEU efforts to engage outside the legal parameters, the General Manager specifically has over four years failed to take the opportunity to build better relationships with her staff or even showing intent to avoid any unnecessary conflicts with staff.


The Re- Fleeting and Re-Branding project is amongst other reasons advanced by the union. As part of government’s effort to rebuild and stabilize Air Botswana, Management announced to staff this initiative and thus giving hope to staff members about their job security.
However, with what seems now customary to Air Botswana that too has been a disaster. The union believe not much was done to involve all necessary stakeholders to ensure a successful implementation of the Re-Fleeting exercise as per expectation from staff.


According to the letter various amateur mistakes were made which in turn proved costly for the organisation, i.e. The trade- in of ATR 42- 500 for the new ATR72- 600 did not yield the intended saving, instead led to Air Botswana losing and paying more for the new aircraft acquisitions, this has been led on by the unilaterally approach to managing the fleet acquisition and planning of introduction into the schedule.


“Re- branding was not satisfactory according to our own observation as well, as ABEU our expectation was that re- branding should have been a staff owned driven exercise, however the contrary occurred. Much of our employees have not bought into this New Air Botswana primary due to being side- lined throughout the process. Despite launching new Aircraft, management has made no effort to engage staff members as part of the process to give them some sense of belonging to Air Botswana” the union stated.  


Lastly the annual cost of living salary adjustment engagements proved futile. The Union expressed their displeasure at the way Air Botswana in the past recent years chose not to address the issue of annual salary increment. The expectation is that, the union said, this is not an unexpected initiative (as it is annual in nature) and therefore management has the responsibility to engage with all concerned stakeholders leading to satisfactory outcomes for all parties. 


The union also submit that they have made efforts to better this relationship but unfortunately has failed to receive cooperation from management. “They opt to often delay increments which mostly are not negotiated with ABEU and year in year out delayed. This has led to many disgruntlements amongst staff who bear cost due to this method chosen by management i.e. Due to late adjustments staff members lose out on pension benefits, and various acting allowances, overtime pay- outs etc, which could have been different had the adjustments been made out on time.


Contacted for comment Tuelo Pius Tshepe who served as the Union’s Chairperson until he was retrenched this week, said they have been engaging with both the General Manager and the Executive Management Committee since May this year. “In one of their responses, the committee wrote to us that we keep being disrespectful and using unpalatable words”, said Tshepe.


The former Union Chairperson said the Executive Management Committee is incompetent, including the board. He also blamed the Committee which is made up of company Directors, saying they seat with the General Manager as members of the ExCo thus they cannot advise her.

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