The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) staff whose responsibilities have been rendered obsolete by technology will not lose their jobs when the department becomes a parastatal organisation in two weeks.
The Ministry of Works and Transport’s spokesperson, Charles Keikotlhae, says that no one in the Communications Operations (ComOps) is at risk of losing their job.
“Plans are underway to assimilate some of the ComOps officers into other divisions of the DCA. They will be given required training,” Keikotlhae says.
Those officers were fearful that technology and privatisation would rob them of their jobs. In a memorandum to the DCA director last year, the ComOps wrote that “the current fully automated system has obviously resulted in some functions, which were performed by ComOps personnel, being taken over by machines”.
ComOps staff grew apprehensive when their duties were taken over by other sections. At a meeting in January 2007, officers raised concern that their duties were being taken over by another section. Minutes of that meeting read: “For instance, ComOps staff used to man HF and it has since been phased out. All categories of messages used to be transmitted by ComOps officers but Air Traffic Control Officers decided to buy a subsystem and they started transmitting estimates and departure messages. Recently, the Notam database was activated and Briefing Officers are now transmitting notams. The only messages that we are now dealing with are Flight Plans but FPL database is on pipeline for installation which will most likely be manned by Briefing Officers which means we will be left with no messages to transmit.”
While supposed to be part of the management team, senior officers from this section have discerned a pattern of being systematically sidelined. At the said meeting, they complained that they are “never briefed on anything as far as the section is concerned”.
ComOps staff also complain about inadequate training, “especially when it comes to scholarships outside the country”.
The ministry’s information about the training does not quite tally with that contained in documents in our possession.
“ComOps officers are trained as and when required and when funds are available. For instance, some of them were sent for training of the operation of the Message Switching System in April 2005,” Keikotlhae says.
Minutes of the January 2007 meeting quote the acting chief communications officer as conceding that “there is lack of training” and that “the last time we were allocated slots was in 2001 apart from the two that were given to training officers last year”.