Zimbabwe's Labor Court has ruled that the strike by Air Zimbabwe pilots and other staff is illegal and has ordering them to return to work within 48 hours.
Labor Court President Loice Matanda-Moyo said the strikers did not follow provisions of the Labor Act before launching their action. But she said management should not penalize them for embarking on the strike, which was in its third week.
The Zimbabwe Flight Crew Association and Air Zimbabwe management had no comment.
Labor expert Davies Ndumiso Sibanda said the strikers risk being fired if they stay away.
"If they go back to work they may be able to pursue the matter and end up obtaining a court order allowing them to attach and sell the airline's property to cover outstanding salaries and allowances," Sibanda said.
The workers say they are owed US$9 million in unpaid salaries and allowances.
A group of Air Zimbabwe employees owed US$400,000 recently obtained a court order authorizing them to attach and sell airline vehicles, computers and shop equipment.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions has urged the government to fire the airline’s management board which it accuses of being incompetent.
President Robert Mugabe had been expected to intervene in the dispute.
Reports said the airline, which has been posting a monthly US$3.5 million loss, is too broke to raise even part of the outstanding salaries and allowances.