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Air Zimbabwe pilots strike grounds all flights

HARARE, Sep  9 – Pilots at Air Zimbabwe on Thursday held talks with management, demanding they be paid their full salaries a day after they went on strike leading the national airline to cancel all flights.

There was chaos at Harare International Airport as the strike began Wednesday, with two planes left abandoned on the runway and disgruntled passengers milling around the airport, according to the state-run Herald newspaper.

The strike led to the cancellation of all Air Zimbabwe flights, including those to Britain, South Africa and Zambia.

Air Zimbabwe board chairman Jonathan Kadzura told state television the company could not afford to pay the 60 pilots their full salaries of 2,500 dollars (1,965 euros) a month, but had promised to make up their back-wages.

"They are striking because they want their salaries paid up, but sadly what we do not seem to appreciate is that in our country at the moment, the average salary is around 260 dollars and 300 dollars," Kadzura said.

"Our pilots are taking away over 1,300 to 1,500 dollars at the end of every month and they accrue the rest as a debt that we promised to pay. So I sincerely do not understand why at all only them and not cleaners, engineers and all other people have decided to go on strike," he said.

Pilots are supposed to receive up to 10,000 dollars a month including allowances, the Herald said.

Air Zimbabwe is separately embroiled in a legal battle with about 400 retrenched workers who are demanding 1.3 million dollars in severance pay awarded to them by an independent arbitrator.

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