PM steps in to halt Air Vanuatu’s planned termination of ni-Vanuatu pilots

Air Vanuatu ... "no termination of ni-Vanuatu pilots will be allowed". Image: Vanuatu Daily Digest

By Royson Willie in Port Vila

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai, as shareholder of the national carrier, has instructed Air Vanuatu not to terminate any ni-Vanuatu pilot employed by the airline.

The intervention by the head of government was made after it was brought to the prime minister’s attention that there were plans to terminate ni-Vanuatu pilots by the end of this month.

In a letter dated July 12, 2016, the prime minister instructed the board of directors chairman, John Lum.

The prime minister said he was informed that the management of the company was planning to take the action this month.

But Salwai noted that the employment contracts for the ni-Vanuatu pilots would end on July 31, 2018.

He said he was aware that steps were already taken “to bring more foreign pilots” into the country.

“In fact , one foreign pilot is already in Port Vila and he is waiting for his police clearance requested by Immigration in order to commence his employment.

‘No longer tolerated’
“I want to inform you that my government will no longer tolerate this action to continue to happen: no termination of ni-Vanuatu pilots of Air Vanuatu will be allowed,” he said in his instruction to the board chairman.

The prime minister as shareholder instructed the board to stop entertaining such policies but rather consider the national interest.

Salwai asked the board to review the airline’s current policy requiring that all ni-Vanuatu pilots must have an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL).

He said that the local pilots for Air Vanuatu’s domestic services were qualified to fly with a commercial pilot Licence (CPL) according to International Civil Aviation Organisation rules.

Salwai said the company’s policy should see the company finance the total cost of all its ni-Vanuatu pilots in achieving an ATPL.

“Air Vanuatu Operations Ltd is a national company and the investments made to develop its human resource shall be considered as investments for the development of this Nation,” the prime minister added.

The Daily Post contacted Air Vanuatu and the Prime Minister’s Office for further comments on the issue but none was made before going to press.

25 pilots
However, earlier this year in March the airline told the Daily Post that Air Vanuatu employed 25 pilots, of whom 14 were Vanuatu nationals and 11 were expatriates.

At that time the airline revealed that there was a recent review of salaries for new or junior pilots requiring further training in order to complete their ATPLs.

“Air Vanuatu is meeting the financial obligations of this training, which would otherwise require the pilots to fund themselves,” the airline said.

“We see this as a way of encouraging more ni-Vanuatu to apply for roles in aviation.

“This training takes between two and three years after which they can build on their flight hours and experience to become eligible for command positions, thus attracting a higher salary.”

Royson Willie is editor of the Vanuatu Daily Post.

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