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01.09.2004 General News

Staff cut will not save Ghanair - Former CEO

By Chronicle

A former Chief Executive Officer of the national carrier, Ghana Airways, Phillip Owusu, has noted that staff cuts at the airline should not be a priority because the management would need to be looking for specialized staff in future, who are not easy to come by.

He stressed that in restructuring the airline, which included improving operations and markets, it might have to employ additional workers to cope with its expected expansion.

Speaking in an interview with The Chronicle, Owusu said looking at the airline's structure, overstaffing was a relatively minor problem considering the percentage of expenses that were budgeted on staff.

Owusu's comments were in reaction to media reports that the management task force of the airlines had ordered 250 staff to proceed on leave whiles another 250 were expected to follow, to clear their accumulated leave arrears.

He said more importantly, people seemed to overlook the fact that overstaffing had not been a problem in only Ghana Airways, but nobody seemed to be interested in other institutions where it existed.

“People do not look at Electricity Company of Ghana, Ghana Water Company Limited, Ghana Telecom or even the ministries and compare them with other countries and check whether they are the same elsewhere”, he queried.

“How come everyone is looking at Ghana airways? They want Ghana airways to be as efficient as British airways but they don't seem to be too concerned about all the ministries in Ghana being as efficient as the ministries in Britain.”

He said the problem of Ghana airways could be solved if there was the will because it had been done in other African countries like Kenya where, in 1992, the national airline was in a worse situation than Ghana airways.

Since the airline was not able to pay its debt, he suggested it should go into partnership with a strategic investor who had the operational, marketing and engineering expertise.

He said there were several dimensions to the problems of Ghana airways that included the large debt of about $162million, which kept accumulating every day, adding that servicing the debt had been a great problem because the airline could not generate enough revenue.

He said a large part of the debt was contracted to buy three DC 10 aircraft now grounded in Rome following the refusal of Alitalia to do maintenance on them because Ghana Airways was indebted to them.

“So you have the servicing of the debt on these aircraft that you have acquired and even though they are not operating, you still have to pay that debt, and then acquire new ones for operation so you would be paying two different debts in order to carry on with your operations,” he lamented.

The former chief executive said a major problem confronting the airline was outmoded aircraft that are fuel-inefficient, adding that the national carrier needs to go for new aircraft but it could not afford them.

Owusu said since the Ghana airways crew were not used to the new types of aircraft, there was the need for the company to put in place a programme to retrain the pilots, engineers and mechanics and to set up maintenance equipment.

But he noted that the management could not put up such a programme overnight and be able to implement it, saying that the revival of the airline would take time.

“It needs time and money to do it because the training for the pilots, for instance, is not an inexpensive exercise; these are other dimensions of the problem people seem not to appreciate, especially the press.” Owusu said.

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