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243 Air Malawi employees to be fired as airline is restructured

Up to 243 employees of Air Malawi Limited are living in suspense as the company has begun sending them on leave pending retrenchment and retirement following government's restructuring of the company.

Both Air Malawi Limited Chief Executive Officer Patrick Chilambe and staff union president Clement Chilenje, in separate interviews yesterday, confirmed that some workers had already received letters sending them on leave until February next year.

"Firstly, as you know we are restructuring the airliner, we are looking at what obligations the airliner has and some of them have to do with accumulated fees and all that.

"Given that we are restructuring, a good percentage of the staff will be allowed to retire from the airline and we thought they could proceed to go on leave in order that they can fulfil their leave entitlements," Chilambe said.

He said January is also the right month to send employees on leave as there is usually low level of operations. He added this has also coincided with the flying of just one aircraft (Boeing) as the other (ATR) is grounded and under maintenance.

Chilambe said his office was yet to consolidate the names of those to be affected after the Christmas Holiday as heads of department have been asked to submit the same.

"We asked heads of department to identify how many [employees] they required and who they required to continue with their work and how many they would afford to let go on leave.

"At the time we were leaving for Christmas holiday, the paperwork was floating and as we go back tomorrow [Thursday], we will certainly consolidate and find where we are," Chilambe said.

But Chitenje yesterday said the union had already written the management protesting the idea to deduct these forced holiday days from their normal leave days, saying it will eat into their benefits.

"We are asking the management not to eat into our leave days just like has been the case with civil servants who have been given two weeks holiday without affecting their normal leave days," Chilenje said.

Chilambe, however, said going by a government circular of September 2009 to all its parastatal companies, employees are supposed to go on leave by September 30 of every year failing which the leave days expire.

Such being the case, he said, the airliner was not in any way acting outside their terms of contract as leave is an entitlement to all employees.

The government placed the highly indebted airliner under voluntary liquidation and instead established a new company called Air Malawi (2012) Limited in which a strategic partner will be sought for co-investment into its operations.

Privatisation Commission (PC) Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Lipunga, whose agency is handling the restructuring of the airline, was quoted in this paper that the move is designed to achieve speedy engagement of private sector investors while honouring obligations to creditors.

Accountant Lekani Katandula was appointed liquidator of Air Malawi Limited and would be responsible for settlement of liabilities as well as overseeing the transfer of assets into Air Malawi (2012) Limited.

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