STANDOFF

Pilots take on KQ management over sackings

22 already sent home with 160 more on the line

In Summary

•Kenya Airways management acted in breach of an existing Memorandum Of Agreement that was enforced by both parties on January 24, 2020.

•The airline has already sent home the majority of its about 4,000 staff on unpaid leave even as it plans to resume operations on  July 15 (domestic) and August 1,(international).

Kenya Airways planes parked during a past pilots strike organised by Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport ./FILE
Kenya Airways planes parked during a past pilots strike organised by Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport ./FILE

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) is accusing Kenya Airways of unprocedurally laying off pilots amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In its support,  the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) has threatened industrial action against Kenya Airways over the lay-offs that targets 182 pilots and more than 400 cabin crew.

KALPA General Secretary and CEO Captain Murithi Nyagah has accused the airline’s management of 'playing dirty' in termination of contracts, where 22 pilots have already been sent home.

 

According to Nyagah, Kenya Airways acted in breach of an existing Memorandum of Agreement that was enforced by both parties on January 24, 2020, which also guides operations during the Covid-19 period which has limited the airline’s revenue streams.

The move to fire pilots is also against government position to protect jobs during the Covid-19 period, KALPA says.

“KALPA will not sit down and watch as you unilaterally belittle and breach an existing recognition agreement when it comes to the terms and conditions of service of pilots in KQ,” Nyagah said in a letter dated July 6.

He went on: "Your attempt to circumvent KALPA in the important matters raised herein will not be tolerated going forward. ” he added in the letter to 

The stern letter addressed to KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka is copied Labour CS Simon Chelugui, COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli and the Federation of Kenya Employers Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo.

Kilavuka had on July 3, written to KALPA indicating the airline was suffering the brunt of the Covid -19 pandemic which has had an unprecedented impact on its revenues.

He said KQ, as it is known by its international code, has experienced a deep downturn and grounded the majority of its fleet.

 

It is projected that passenger revenues will still plummet by at least 50 per cent in 2020, Kilavuka said, projecting the situation will prevail for at least the next two years.

“We have done an extensive internal review of our operations, and we are inevitably forced to carry out an organization-wide restructuring which will culminate with among other things, a reduction in our network, our assets as well as staff,” Kilavuka said.

The airline has already sent home majority of its about 4,000 staff on unpaid leave even as it plans to resume domestic flights on  July 15  and international flights from  August 1.

Despite income growing to 128.3 billion last year, from Sh114.1 billion in 2018, KQ has struggled to meet its wage bill of about Sh1 billion a month, with operating costs exceeding to upward of Sh129.1 billion.

This is on hefty payment for aircraft leases to leases, raising questions over management and decision making at the airline.

The pilots are further angered by the three-day notice given by KQ for unpaid leave despite the staff having been on a 35 per cent pay for the last three months.

“KALPA has not agreed to any such measures (unpaid leave) in our engagement regarding the July 2020 Memorandum of Agreement,” Nyagah said.

He said KALPA is willing to consider unpaid leave as an option, only if, the measure has to be in place to secure jobs at KQ and cushion the airline from further effects of the pandemic.

“Furthermore unpaid leave has to apply fairly across KQ, with top management leading by example,” said Nyagah said.

On Monday, Atwoli lashed at KQ management saying it should be blamed for the challenges facing the national carrier, even as he called for a reshuffle of top leadership.

“The board is composed of people who have outlived their usefulness. They should be at home and allow people who understand modern dynamics to take over,” Atwoli said.