Ethiopian management, crew members enter negotiation mode
The management and employees of Ethiopian Airlines are in a negotiation to settle a number of complaints with its dwindling crew members over pay and benefits. Among these complaints are being overworked and forced to purchase a technologically advanced device to help the airline go paper-less and become fully digitalized.
Several crew members told The Reporter on how they received a top-down management decision that is affecting their work environment. One was a random email mid-summer directing them to forge half of their “rest-time” to help smooth the unexpected traffic of clienteles for the month of June. What was to be a temporary relief for the airline continued for several months and ended last week , with little minimal overtime pay, burdening many and forcing some to abandon their employment altogether.
A growing number of crew members, according to sources, have been coming into management to be released of employment and pay a “financial penalty” the airline has placed on each crew member to recoup its training costs.
“Because of high demands and a lack of an Association to speak for them and fight for their employment interest, the airline is forced to rely on its scarce crew members,” said a source who spoke to The Reporter on conditions of anonymity.
However, the airline is adamant that it is complying with its collective agreements with its employees.
“For various unforeseen operational reasons, the day-off crew may be affected,” Aniley Eshetu, the Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications at Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement sent to The Reporter. “When this occurs, per the collective agreement between management and employees, the Company makes overtime payments. This is done in compliance with the country’s Labor Proclamation, Regulations, Directives and the Company’s Internal Rules”.
“If an employee feels aggrieved, he or she can submit a complaint based on the company’s internal grievance procedure. So far, no formal complaints have been received regarding this issue,” she added.
“That is not true and many of us have complained but we have reached a dead-end with them,” a hostess told The Reporter. “It’s not just about being given monetary benefits, but our health, and not to many of us want to be burdened, have our quality of work compromised, and burnt for a chance to work for the airline”.
Another issue at hand for the airline is the issue of tablet computers that all the hostesses have been asked to purchase at a cost of USD 250 to ease their communications with its management. Crew members told The Reporter that everyone has been equipped with the device, and told to exclusively use it for work purposes only and forced to pay from their salary.
“Some crew members approached the Company so as to be allowed to use iPads or cell-phones (sic) for communications between them and the Company, instead of paper communication arrangements,” Aniley told The Reporter. “The benefits of this digital arrangement are manifold both for employees and the Company. It is more convenient and makes the communication more efficient. Hence, the Company accepted this laudable proposal for the crew. There is no obligation imposed on any crew to purchase an iPad. This is done purely on voluntary basis”.
While the airline contends its “voluntary”; a number of hostesses told The Reporter that it is not true.
The Ethiopian Labor Proclamation No. 377/2003 stipulates the benefits and responsibilities of an employer.
According to it, “an employer is to provide work to the worker in accordance with the contract of employment and unless otherwise stipulated in the contract of employment, to provide him with implements and materials necessary for the performance of the work”.
George Okutho, Director, ILO Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan and Special Representatives to the AU and ECA, confirmed to The Reporter that the ILO has received the complaints filed by aforementioned employees.
Despite being sent follow up inquires, including a chance to produce evidence to contradict the allegations made by its crew members, the airline has rebuffed the chance to comment further.