Reports of job losses ‘unfounded’ – Air Namibia

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WINDHOEK – Air Namibia says the exploration of options to discard non-core functions or to lessen the budget it spends on these functions is only at an infant stage thus any speculation about job losses is “unfounded”.

“The Cabinet-approved turnaround strategy has cost management as a key imperative thus a dialogue at board level has commenced regarding the various options of eliminating or minimizing expenditure that is linked to non-core functions. This dialogue is in its infant stage and remains ongoing until the most feasible option is identified, thus the recent speculation of over four 400 employees losing their jobs is unfounded and false,” said Acting Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Rene Gsponer.

In a statement released this weekend Gsponer said: “The conundrum of fulfilling our national mandate by absorbing key costs and remaining competitive in a globally challenging industry remains a constant.” Air Namibia has been a loss-making operation for over two decades and over the last 15 years has received about N$4 billion from government.

Over the next three years the national airline will receive a total of N$1.93 billion in public funds.

An amount of N$579.8 million is allocated to Air Namibia in the 2015/16 financial year, which runs to the end of March 2016, N$722.4 million in the next financial year and N$629.6 million in the 2017/18 financial year.

Gsponer defends this allocation by saying Air Namibia’s contribution to the gross domestic product by facilitating local, regional and global tourism as well as enabling economic activity through business travel, remains positive. “It has been and will remain the focus of the national carrier to contain and eliminate, where possible, non-core costs in order to enhance efficiency as well as to attain economies of scale,” he said.

“Air Namibia has and remains a beneficiary of the national budget due to its strategic national importance. However, the airline cannot remain dependent on state funding and it is imperative that the airline becomes self-sustainable.

The national carrier has been receiving an annual allocation from the fiscus since inception,” Gsponer noted.

He added that safety in aviation all over the world is non-negotiable and remains the single most strategic risk for all airlines, with Air Namibia being no exception.

Aviation safety is regulated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and in Namibia by the Directorate of Civil Aviation (DCA). “We comply with these regulations and in addition, Air Namibia has passed the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and without this certification, an airline cannot be a member of IATA,” said Gsponer.

He said that Air Namibia is a full service airline which is why it has internationally certified crew, who are trained above the mandatory requirements for safety and regulatory compliance. This training, he said, comes at a significant cost.

“Due to our specific national mandate of facilitating tourism and trade, we cannot pass on all these costs to the consumer, hence much of these costs are absorbed by the airline,” he said.

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