Flight disruptions loom as Kenya Airways pilots go on strike

Kenya Airways planes at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Flights taking off and landing at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi are facing disruptions beginning Saturday after Kenya Airways (KQ) pilots failed to call off a planned strike, defying a court order.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa), which draws the bulk of its membership from Kenya Airways, says they will down their tools because KQ management has turned a deaf ear to their grievances.

“Beginning Saturday, 5th November 2022, from 6.00 am local time, there shall be no Kenya Airways aircraft departing JKIA flown by a Kalpa member,” Kalpa general-secretary Murithi Nyaga said in a statement on Friday.

The Labour Court Monday temporarily halted the strike, which had threatened to paralyse KQ operations and derail its recovery from the effects of travel restrictions that followed the Covid-19 pandemic.

Kenya Airways had sought court orders to stop the industrial action citing the risk of paying hefty fines on cancellation of flights totalling about Sh300 million.

Kalpa issued a 14-day strike notice on October 19, citing four reasons.

They want the board and executives ousted for undisclosed governance and leadership issues, the airline’s failure to implement pay agreements (CBA), alleged victimisation of Kalpa members and non-payment of monthly pension contributions for staff.

“The strike notice has since expired, and we are therefore at liberty to exercise our right to withdraw our labour forthwith as enshrined in Article 41, Chapter 4 of the Kenyan Constitution,” Mr Nyaga said Friday.

KQ froze paying the monthly pension contribution equivalent to 10 percent of the workers’ pay 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.

KQ says that it cannot continue paying the provident fund and, at the same time, clear outstanding salaries that amount to Sh6.5billion due to its depressed revenues.

“As you know, we continue to pay back the deferred salaries and expect to start paying back the contributions to the provident fund in 2023,” said KQ Chairman Michael Joseph in a statement to workers this week.

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