FOUR more foreign companies are currently in talks with the government with intent to acquire shares in the troubled Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL). The government had since last year been holding talks with Chinas Sonangol International Limited (CSIL), to bail out the cash strapped national airline, but no conclusion had so far been reached between them amid reports that the parties had recently failed to agree on some key issues. The government has, however, maintained that talks with the Chinese firm are progressing well. We are currently having talks with other four companies including Sonangol in a fresh move to get a reputable investor in ATCL, confirmed Mr Omary Chambo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Infrastructure Development. He declined to reveal the companies. In an exclusive interview with this paper over the week end, Engineer Chambo said that the government had decided to hold talks with other interested companies, apart from the Chinese firm, interested in investing in ATCL. The acting ATCL Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Mr William Haji, also confirmed the move. The best option is to find a company which can take over under the Public Private Partnership and we are hopeful it will be secured any time from now, he said. Inside sources, however, have it that there have been some disagreements on various clauses in the talks with Sonangol including pruning of almost half of the workforce at the company for investment deal to be sealed. One of the clauses in the restructuring of the company was the retrenchment exercise which is now taking place but already facing various obstacles. Mr Haji confirmed that it was an uphill task to carry out such an exercise while the company was in such a terrible financial state. He admitted that 154 staff must be retrenched out of the existing 333, adding that already many of them have opted for voluntary retrenchment but he was uncertain when they will officially leave the office. Everything has now stopped until package dispute between the government and workers' trade union is sorted out. We havent even started to identify who will go and who will remain, he said hopelessly. Workers through their Communication Workers Trade Union (COTWU) are pressurising for a handsome golden handshake and the government says it can not bow to workers' demands. The workers demand statutory benefits, a golden handshake package of two months salaries for the maximum of ten years. But the government has been reported saying it was ready to pay only two weeks salaries for ten years plus one week salaries times the rest of years one has served with the company and not otherwise. Following the government stand over the payment, workers have now resorted to seek an audience with the Prime Minister, Mr Mizengo Pinda, over the matter. Engineer Chambo however, said already the government has been paying the company nearly 1bn/- a month for staff wages only. The retrenchment comes in a move aimed at releasing a burden of running the company which has remained with just two DASH 8 Q-300 planes with capacity to carry 50 passengers each. The Government's partnership with Sonangol or any other company is the second development aimed at making the company financially and commercially viable. First it partnered the South Africa Airways (SAA) but it failed miserably and by August 2006, it left ATCL with a Sh13.2 billion debt. The new investor is also expected to implement ATCL's long term strategic plan presently nailed at $507.7million (670.1bn/-), including procuring of nine planes for domestic and international flights, training for pilots and engineers and changing the operating technology system.