Kenya Airways escalates fight with pilots, seeks to dissolve CBA

Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka speaking kq

Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka addresses the media at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on November 7, 2022, amid a crippling strike by the airline's pilots. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Kenya Airways has escalated the dispute with its striking pilots, filing contempt charges and seeking to withdraw recognition of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in the latest bid to try to force the defiant pilots union to end a work boycott that has grounded the airline’s flights since Saturday.

The national carrier, which also launched a recruitment drive for new pilots, adopted a hardline stance on Monday, rejecting calls to engage in further talks with the union unless it ended the industrial action.

Kenya Airways chief executive Allan Kilavuka said the airline had started the process of hiring captains and first officers to replace the ones on strike.

“Yes, we have opened applications for suitable candidates to fill the positions of captains and first officers at Kenya Airways. There are no negotiations because they are sabotaging the work. If they don’t come to work, how will we get money to pay them?” Mr Kilavuka told the Business Daily.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) has, however, stuck to its guns, accusing the airline of being unwilling to make any concessions despite all attempts to reach a deal.

“Despite all their non-committal actions to resolve the stalemate, we urge the KQ management to come to the table and negotiate with an open mind,” said Kalpa secretary-general Murithi Nyagah.

The pilots have raised four issues, including withdrawal of the staff provident fund.

KQ stopped paying the monthly pension contributions equivalent to 10 percent of the workers’ salary at the peak of Covid-19 pandemic. It requires about Sh1.3 billion annually for the contributions, with the pilots’ share accounting for about Sh700 million.

In another twist of events, KQ wrote to the Ministry of Labour requesting to terminate recognition agreement and the existing CBA -- a written legal contract between an employer and a union representing the employees. If granted, the move will further leave workers exposed, since the airline has the backing of the Labour ministry and a court order.

The airline is further counting on the support of the government to dissolve the CBA, to clip the powers of the union.

KQ got a first win against the pilots yesterday after a court directed the pilots to appear in court this morning to explain why they should not be cited for contempt after refusing to return to work even after the airline obtained orders stopping the industrial action.

Justice Anne Ngibuini Mwaure has directed senior Kalpa officials to appear in court and explain why they should not be punished for downing tools.

The judge said the union officials led by its secretary-general, Mr Nyagah, must appear in court without fail.

Senior officials of the union summoned by the court are chairman Timothy Njoroge and vice-chairman David Magwa and assistant secretary-general Dzochera Warrakah.

“The application filed by the claimant be certified urgent. The same be served upon the respondents,” said Lady Justice Mwaure.

The Employment and Labour Relations court had temporarily stopped the strike, which threatens to derail KQ’s recovery from effects of travel restrictions that followed Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline sought court orders to stop the strike citing the risk of paying hefty fines on cancellation of flights, a strain on cash flows and revenue losses. But after the pilots made good their threat, KQ went back to court seeking to cite the union officials for contempt for engaging in an illegal strike that is reportedly costing the airline Sh300 million per day.

KQ pilots also want union members whom they claim were dismissed illegally reinstated. Kalpa is also demanding that KQ adhere to all signed documents on deals agreed between the two.

PAYE Tax Calculator

Note: The results are not exact but very close to the actual.