Air Botswana slashes salaries all round

• 192 retrenched • Staff allowances not paid since April • Covid-19 to blame

Air Botswana slashes salaries all round

Air Botswana has cut the salaries of all employees, the General Manager of the troubled airline, Agnes Khunwana, told the Committee on Statutory Bodies and State Enterprises this week.

“We cut salaries for everyone,” Khunwana said.

The parliamentary committee heard that the salaries of members of the airline’s executive committee have been slashed by 40 percent and that staff have not been paid their conditional allowances since April after the coronavirus hit Botswana in March.

“Because we were not operating at all, we cut conditional allowances,” the GM said. “We engaged and were told (the principle of) no work, no pay could still be invoked. We could not afford to pay salaries.”

Air Botswana is one of several parastatals that have been running with losses for years. The airline has embarked on a restructuring exercise to turn its fortunes around, an exercise that Khunwana said will be finalised in March next year.

Before restructuring, Botswana’s national airline had a staff complement of 542 with a ratio of one aircraft to 162 staff members, which the GM said was too high and was reduced to 350 employees.

But the financial woes of one of Botswana’s flag bearers are so serious that they affected even the restructuring. “The money that we had ran out and (restructuring) was halted as at March due to the State of Public Emergency (SoE),” Khunwana said. “The target was to have 210 working for the airline and 140 working in ground support.”

Nevertheless, the GM looks to the future with optimism. “We were to talk to a long haul operator so that we can maybe have Air Namibia flying into Maun,” she said.

She added that there are certain aircraft that Air Botswana must procure before it can introduce direct flights to and from specific destinations.