KQ employees blame union for their woes

TROUBLED: Kenya Airways employees converge at JKIA during a past strike.Photo/Jack Owuor
TROUBLED: Kenya Airways employees converge at JKIA during a past strike.Photo/Jack Owuor

UNIONISABLE employees of Kenya Airways are growing restless with some of their key officials accusing them of being too lenient on the airlines management, it has emerged. Several employees who talked to the Star on condition of anonymity revealed a sense of mistrust with a top official of the Aviation and Allied Workers Union whom they accused of not doing much to fight for workers' rights hence the recurrent labour problems bedevelling the airline workers.

One employee who works as a cabin crew member told the Star that by not giving the union ample time to give proposals before announcing the latest round of job cuts, the airline flouted labour rules which require that the union is also involved so that an agreed severance package is designed. “The mood on the ground is that of anger. As employees we are not happy because the proposals given are one sided and only came from the management,” said one flight attendant.

“There is also a feeling that the union has let us down , its like they never saw this coming and were not prepared. They were caught flat footed and the agenda is being set by one side,” remarked the attendant. The workers want the airline taken to task for flouting the existing collective bargaining agreement by not involving the union in its employee restructuring plans from the word go.

“There had been rumours about such a planned move for the last three months but there was no official communication to the union about such. They (union officials) also got to know of it when the notice was sent to everyone,” complained a second flight attendant. Following the airline's impending move to cut jobs, AAWU secretary general Nicholas Baraza said the union is still collecting proposals from its members to be presented at a meeting with KQ management scheduled for today.

“Since the labour rules have been violated here because union officials were not briefed early enough and were not party to the formulation of the so called pay package being offered for voluntary retirement, the union should get a legal order to stop the restructuring plans and not negotiate,” said another angry employee who did not disclose his job designation at the airline. “Naikuni (Titus, KQ CEO) cannot negotiate in good faith. He can only do so under duress and with documents that are backed by the law. This meeting that has been planned is pointless,” added the employee.

Another staffer of the airline noted that the reasons given for the job cuts are weak and claimed the airline was already recruiting more employees from Ghana to serve its West African routes and accused it of dishonesty and sidelining locals. “The management just wants to finish the union so that workers will not have a strong voice to speak out when injustices like these happen,” claimed a flight purser.

Kenya Airways last week announced the job cuts which it explained were aimed at reducing its employment cost that has “more than doubled over the last six years.” Nicholas Baraza the AAWU secretary general confirmed that the union, which has already collected proposals from its members, will meet with KQ management today as agreed last week. He did not however divulge details of proposals made by the staff of the airline.