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Boost for KQ as pilots cancel strike plan

Kalpa secretary- general Paul Gichinga with chairman, Njoroge Murimi, at a past Press conference. PHOTO | FILE
Kalpa secretary- general Paul Gichinga with chairman, Njoroge Murimi, at a past Press conference. PHOTO | FILE 

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) has called off a planned industrial action at Kenya Airways, saying it is confident that the management issues they raised regarding the cash-strapped carrier are being addressed.

Kalpa members had planned to go on strike on October 18 to push for the resignation of the airline’s CEO and chairman for alleged mismanagement but deferred the move following negotiations with the government.

The pilots’ lobby Thursday called off the strike, days after former Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph took over from Dennis Awori as the carrier’s new chairman.

“Based on how things have unfolded over the past week, we decided that there is no need of hanging the strike notice over people’s heads,” Kalpa’s secretary general Paul Gichinga told the Business Daily in a telephone interview.

The association, which has approximately 450 members, had vowed not to fly KQ’s fleet of about 36 aircraft as long as the airline’s chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze and Mr Awori were still in office.

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The pilots accused the duo of mismanaging the Nairobi Securities Exchange-listed firm, leaving it in need of a bailout of approximately Sh60 billion.

Kalpa only deferred the strike after the government, led by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s chief of staff Joseph Kinyua, promised them swift action against top KQ officials found to have been responsible for the airline’s troubles.

Three days after this agreement was reached, Mr Joseph was appointed the new chairman, meeting one of the pilots’ key demands that Mr Awori had to exit.

Mr Gichinga, however, insists that Kalpa has not dropped its demand that Mr Ngunze resign and that it will revisit the matter with the new chairman in two months.

“We still want the management overhaul especially Mr Mbuvi’s departure. Around January, we shall go back to ask the new chairman about this matter. He should have settled down by then,” he said.

Mr Joseph, who is expected to outline the airline’s business outlook at a press conference Friday, welcomed the strike notice cancellation, saying he “hopes it marks the start of a new relationship with our pilots.”

The 70-year-old, who is credited with having grown Safaricom from a nondescript unit of a former State corporation to the region’s most profitable company, added that he will not engage pilots on matters of Mr Mbuvi’s tenure.

KQ released its half year results last week, indicating it had cut its net loss by over a half to Sh4.8 billion mainly aided by cost-cutting initiatives.

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