A high court judge has given Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) 10 days to conclude negotiations on reduced pay increases with airport workers or they proceed on strike.
Lady Justice Monica Mbaru issued the orders last week Friday directing KAA to finish talks over pay with Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) and serve the Labour Minister Simon Chelugui and the court.
The judge said in her orders that should KAA refuse to comply with the new court directive then Kawu will be free to commence an industrial action that will exclude 55 union officials spread across KAA offices countrywide.
“That the claimant has the next 10 calendar days to conclude the CBA with the respondent and serve the minister and a copy to the court,” said Lady Justice Mbaru.
“Where the claimant is unable, unwilling or refuses to comply or address, the respondent shall be at liberty to commence industrial action and only have the 55 union officials present.”
KAA had sought orders from the court to stop the strike saying that the planned industrial action is illegal. It also said the strike would have a devastating effect on the economy and the entire aviation industry.
The union wanted to be awarded a basic salary increment of 13 percent for the duration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (2016-2019) in addition to annual raise in a deal whose implementation has been delayed partly due to Covid-19 disruptions.
Because of the standoff, the union had asked members to down their tools, a development that prompted the aviation authority to seek the court’s intervention.
KAA board had proposed to increase unionisable workers’ salaries by 6 percent yearly from 2016 to 2019 translating to a total cost of Sh231.3million. The move was aimed at preserving cash at the cash-strapped authority.
The developments come a few months after KAA managing director Alex Gitari said a decision by the Treasury to mop up Sh12.5 billion surplus cash from its coffers in 2019 left it broke and unable to settle supplier debt.
This saw KAA reach out to the Treasury for a bailout to help meet pressing needs, including clearance of pending bills that continue to attract interest as high as Sh12 million monthly.
The Treasury in a November 11, 2019 directive by Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani ordered State agencies to surrender surplus cash as the government raced to clear a backlog of pending bills.
Mr Gitari said the cash crunch it was experiencing then was made worse by the March 2020 Covid-19-induced economic fallout.