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Focus on Kenya Airways as pilots gobble half of payroll

Sebastian Mikosz
Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

About half of Kenya Airways’ #ticker:KQ payroll is dished out to its pilots -- who form the minority of the workforce -- disclosures have shown, shinning the spotlight on the airline’s employee compensation.

An official document by the national carrier showed that although pilots accounted for 13 per cent of the airline’s total workforce, they took home the equivalent of 45 per cent of the overall payout to employees.

Staff under the umbrella of the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) accounted for the bulk of workforce at 65 percent but took home an estimated 30.5 percent of KQ’s payroll.

Managers at the airline accounted for 22 percent of the workforce and drew compensation equivalent of 22 per cent of the payroll.

Expatriates represented 0.3 percent of the airlines workforce and pocket 2.6 percent of its payroll.

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Going by KQ’s latest financial report for the nine months to December 2017, pilots were paid a combined Sh4.25 billion from the airline’s Sh9.45 billion wage bill for the period while the KAWU staff took home Sh2.89 billion.

The management took home Sh2.08 billion in salaries while expatriate staff received Sh245 million.

414 pilots

At the end of 2017, the airline had 414 pilots, out of its overall workforce of 3,548.

The revelations came as the struggling airline put up a spirited fight to take up the management of the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) as a way of strengthening its financial position.
The airline had proposed a merger with the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) — an issue that has stirred public debate and split its staff.

Kawu and the pilot umbrella body, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa), have been on differing ends of the table over the takeover bid.

The Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) told the parliamentary committee on transport that it was opposed the merger proposal, saying it will result in job losses and disadvantage other facilities managed by the KAA.

Kawu members went on strike last month to protest against unfair staff hiring, poor remuneration and the proposed takeover of the airport by the airline.

On the other hand, Kalpa has supported the merger bid although its officials admitted that they were not privy to the details of the Privately Initiated Investment Proposal (PIIP) presented by KQ.

Protests

Wage has been a key point of protest for employees of the carrier as the past five years have remained marred in industrial actions, some resulting in flight disruptions and others paralysing services on some routes.

The airline has been involved in protracted labour disputes with its pilots and has also suffered from poaching of talent by wealthy Middle East carriers that can afford to pay higher wages.
Technicians, engineers and other Kawu members have also downed their tools multiple times over salary disputes.

KQ has been targeting a reduction of its wage bill as part of a wider cost-cutting drive aimed at returning it to profitability after having reported the worst losses by a listed firm in Kenya in 2015 and 2016.

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