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National Assembly

Government remains committed to replacing foreigners working for Air Seychelles with Seychellois | 20 May 2020

Up to now no decision has been taken to renew the contract of the chief commercial officer working for Air Seychelles and the post has been advertised locally, Minister Didier Dogley has told the National Assembly.

The government has always invested in the development of local manpower and today Seychellois have taken over many positions in government that were previously occupied by foreigners and Air Seychelles is no exception, the Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine said while answering a private notice question by the leader of the opposition Wavel Ramkalawan.

“For us it is clear that as long as there are qualified Seychellois available, we should give them priority while at the same time we should be aware that with a population of less than 100,000 people, it is not possible to have enough qualified Seychellois with the necessary experience in all fields at all times. What is important is the willingness and to have in place a well organised plan to progressively work toward achieving this aim,” said Minister Dogley.

He went on to add that since Air Seychelles was restructured in 2017 to become a regional airline, there has been remarkable effort to continuously reduce its foreign workforce to the minimum.

“At present there are 11 foreigners working at Air Seychelles from whom seven will soon have their contract terminated and this will leave only four foreign employees working with the national airline and this is less than 1% of the total work force of Air Seychelles,” Minister Dogley said.

With regard to the post of chief commercial officer, Minister Dogley pointed out that Air Seychelles advertised the post from May 13 to 18 in the Seychelles NATION newspaper inviting applications from any person with the necessary qualifications and experience.

“This is clear therefore that Air Seychelles did not have any intention to re-employ the same foreigner in the post,” the minister explained.

Minister Dogley added that he does not have any doubt of the government’s commitment to continuously working on its plan to replace foreigners working with the national airline by Seychellois cadres but he admits that this is easier in some fields than others.

Mr Ramkalawan had asked for answers and clarifications on different aspects in relation to the chief commercial officer. These include why the position had not been advertised internally, if Air Seychelles was discreetly planning to re-employ the same foreigner who is costing the national airline more than R300,000 in salary and lodging monthly, in view of the current uncertainty, if it is not yet time to make the airline entirely operated by Seychellois and what had happened to the airline’s understudy programme.

“When you are operating internationally, irrespective if it is on regional or international long haul routes, competition remains the same because you have to deal with almost the same competitors and if you don’t have a strong and experienced team you will not survive,” Minister Dogley remarked.

“So even though our aim is to have 100% Seychellois working with the national airline, we have to work towards this objective in a way so as not to endanger the company,” said the minister.

As to the understudy programme for Seychellois that the company promised, Minister Dogley stated that under this programme Air Seychelles has for the past three years been able to replace several foreign employees among them is the head of flight operations, chief pilot jet fleet, head of crew training, head of human resource, head of corporate affairs, head of cargo, chief operations officer, chief finance officer and the manager line maintenance international.

In the case of the post of chief commercial officer there was a local staff who was understudying the foreigner but has decided to quit and move on.

In a supplementary question Mr Ramkalawan noted that the fact that the person was in the post since 2018, why is it that there was only one Seychellois understudying him and no other Seychellois in the concerned department were encouraged to also do so? He also wanted to know if the foreigner in the post had fulfilled a particular condition of his contract which was to increase the national airline’s revenue by 3% each year which is equivalent to US $3 million.

He also wanted to know why the person is still living at Eden Island where the rent is expensive while there was an agreement with the airline for its foreign employees to move to flats at English River.

Among other issues that Mr Ramkalawan raised was one concerning Air Seychelles pilots who are paid part of their salaries in USD who have received a letter calling on them to accept a salary cut as they will be paid on the old dollar rate as no adjustment to match the increase rate in the dollar was being considered.

Mr Ramkalawan wanted to know if that will apply to all employees of the airline who are paid a component of their salary in dollars.

Minister Dogley pointed out that the person had been tasked to help Air Seychelles cut costs and increase revenue and this he did by taking the decision to stop the airline flying to Abu Dhabi, he worked on developing the chartered flights to Israel. But Minister Dogley did not have the exact figures and true impact of the chief commercial officer on Air Seychelles revenue, figures he promised to seek with Air Seychelles and bring to the MNAs at a later stage.

In relation to the terms of his contract with regard to lodging, Minister Dogley noted that he is not aware what it states.

Concerning proposed salary cuts to pilots’ salaries, Minister Dogley pointed out that the government has not given any clearance for salary cuts for any employees and he also noted that Air Seychelles’ budget for salaries is fixed and the government is not expected to come back to the Assembly for more money for salaries.

He noted that all employees concerned have agreed to the arrangement considering the present economic situation.

The salary cut would apply to all employees concerned.

But Minister Dogley admitted that he is aware of ongoing talks between Air Seychelles and the department of employment.

He however stated that up to now Air Seychelles has not submitted any request for redundancy.

Other Assembly members also raised other questions relating to the appointment of the chief commercial officer, the airline’s ability to ensure Seychellois stay in their posts at the airline, among numerous other issues.

Meanwhile LDS MNA Waven Woodcock wanted to know why the national airline is calling on all Seychellois who are stranded in India following the lockdown related to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those who had accompanied their relatives on medical treatment in India, to pay R10,500 for a repatriation flight back to Seychelles expected on May 23.

He stressed that most of them cannot afford to pay the sum.

He asked the minister to consider using some of the money being spent on foreigners working for the national airline to buy repatriation tickets for our brothers and sisters stranded in India.

He asked why the tourism ministry and Air Seychelles cannot repatriate the group of Seychellois without making them pay the fare.

Minister Dogley stressed that people sent for medical treatment by the department of health will be taken care of by government while all those who went at their own expense will have to incur the costs but those concerned should request for financial assistance either through the department of health or government but not through Air Seychelles, which is a commercial company.

Mr Woodcock insisted that this is not a normal situation and people were informed at a very short notice of the payment and concerned authorities should act in solidarity with our stranded brothers and sisters some of whom have not even received their April salaries and do not even know when they will be paid in May.

Minister Dogley has asked Mr Woodcock for the details of all those persons stranded in India and Sri Lanka.

 

Marie-Anne Lepathy

 

 

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