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Striking Air Zimbabwe Pilots Refuse to Attend Disciplinary Hearing

Sources said the pilots who were ordered to surrender their uniforms and other Air Zimbabwe property were facing charges of disobeying a lawful order to return to work and failing to fulfill their employment contracts

Striking commercial pilots dismissed this week by Air Zimbabwe refused on Wednesday to attend a hearing called by management, vowing to continue their strike until their grievances are met.

Sources close to the labor action said the pilots were summoned to a disciplinary hearing soon after their dismissal on Tuesday. They were also ordered to surrender their uniforms and other property of Air Zimbabwe, the sources said.

Airline management said the pilots had disobeyed a lawful order to return to work and failed to fulfill their conditions of employment. The airline's board had previously given the striking pilots 24 hours to go back to work or face dismissal.

Sources said the National Airways Workers Union ordered the pilots not to attend the disciplinary hearings as the pilots had been dismissed.

Airline management and union officials were locked in a meeting in Harare late Wednesday.

The pilots, their union and airline management all declined to comment on the dispute. But sources said the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare was expected to intervene.

Labor experts said Air Zimbabwe has been forced to invoke the National Employment Code of Conduct in a bid to end the strike.

Independent labor expert Mkhululi Masombuka told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that Air Zimbabwe is now using an appropriate legal instrument to handle the industrial action.

The airline is said to be losing some US$500,000 a day in operational costs due to the strike. It has hired private carriers to service key Southern African and domestic routes.