Ethiopian Airlines has recently been caught up in different controversies of varying gravities. Different individuals who claimed to have been former employees of the company have kept on coming forward with allegations of gross violations. To counter these claims, ET has become aggressive in attempting to paint itself a positive picture in the eyes of the public through quite obvious Public Relation stunts.
ET produced and released a short video that tried to send a message that the company actually cares for its employees. As proof, basic services and facilities such as transportation (that is usually more stuffed than Ambessa public buses), subsidized cafeteria, gymnasium (equipments donated by the Boeing company), free medical service etc. were presented. On one segment of the video, a middle manager from flight operations division is heard thanking higher management for buying ‘ big Simulation devices’. Leaving aside the naivety of ET’s attempt in the video, it is true that the services provided by ET to its employees are better than many other institutions in the country. But, these are irrelevant to the allegations made against higher and middle managers at ET. A video about basic provisions to all employees is can not be an antidote for a claim about autocratic tendencies in management.
Then, ET’s higher management and few employees visited Macedonia home for the elderly (under the direction of the prime minister, according to some sources) on Nov 10, 2018. ET donated used equipments, which could of course be utilized by Macedonia, and the CEO (Tewelde G/Mariam) made a pledge of significant amount which varies in different reports (probably because the pledge varies in different recordings). Years have passed since Macedonia has become the center stage of philanthropy in Ethiopia. Even if ET sometimes engages in philanthropy, the visit at this time to Macedonia clearly came out as PR stunt at best.
These repeated attempts at a positive PR have utterly failed by themselves as they are too little too late. But leaving that aside, two other important developments that are the extension of ET’s management as well as a reflection of Tewolde G/Mariam’s attitude towards dissent should worry us.
During a recent visit to Macedonia, the management pledged to donate money to support the good deeds of Macedonia. Despite no claims being made by any pilot present there, ET released a statement (apparently on behalf of all Pilots) that they have all agreed to donate 10,000ETB each. The management’s deep rooted culture of dictating things on its employees is saddening. Tewolde G/Mariam’s perception that he and only himself ‘exist’ at ET is once again on display here. This is not the first time that ET’s management has made a pledge with no proper discussion and permission from employees on behalf of employees. It was on ETV that many employees learned of their own one month salary giveaway commitment for the Great Renaissance Dam project. Despite the air of change and freedom being felt in our institutions, ET’s management is stuck in time. New goals but the same old tricks!
ET has been aggressively engaging with the public through its official FaceBook page and it is to be remembered that posting a former employees personal training records was one of them. Back then, we could read all good and bad reviews of all these posts. On Nov 21, 2018, the Addis Ababa mayor Takele Umaa and other high officials visited the premises of ET and pictures of the visit were posted on Facebook. As a public institution, specially at a time when there is reasonable freedom of opinion in the country, it is sickening to find out that the company has started deleting all negative comments under its posts. Again, a clear indication that the management is not willing to listen to anyone but itself.
Looking at the age old culture of autocratic tendencies at ET and the fact that ET’s higher and middle management see themselves as untouchable, the failure of human resource management doesn’t seem to have an end any time soon.