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Workers suspend planned strike as Kenya Airways gears for maiden NY flight

KQ CEO Sebastian Mikosz
Kenya Airways chief executive officer Sebastian Mikosz. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The aviation workers’ union has agreed to suspend the boycott of Kenya Airways’ #ticker:KQ October 28 maiden direct flight to United States.

Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) and KQ recorded the consent in court this morning which was recorded as a court order by Employment and Labour Relation Court's Judge Bryam Ongaya.

Kenya Airways moved to court seeking protection following a directive by the aviation workers' union asking its members to boycott the direct flight.

“That the applicant’s express flight to United States of America scheduled for October 28, 2018 and subsequent flights will take place as scheduled in accordance with Kenyan and USA laws generally and in particular as relate to cabin crew members,” reads the order.

The judge further directed the case to be mentioned on October 31 for reporting on the progress fn the negotiations and further orders.

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Restrain workers

KQ in its application pleaded with court to restrain the workers from disrupting the maiden flight, arguing that the US route is one of its strategy to turn around its fortune.

The airline said the directive issued by the workers union, asking its members to boycott the direct flight was intended to cause panic among the customers locally and internationally.

The directive asked unionised members across the passenger services, cargo handlers, inflight, technical and support services to stay away from the direct flight unless KQ management commits to union’s demand before October 28.

KQ claimed that the union has not complied with the labour laws before issuing the strike notice.

"The airline notes that the dispute has not gone through conciliation, no strike notice has issued.

KQ pleaded with court to suspend the planned boycott arguing that the Kenyan government and the airline have worked very hard to get approvals of direct flight to New York.

Blackmail

KQ CEO Sebastian Mikosz termed the Union’s directive as a blackmail meant to arm-twist the management to give into its demands.

KQ said disrupting the planned flag-off of the maiden flight by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday will cause significant reputational damage to the country and cause financial damage to the airline.

But the union’s secretary-general Moss Ndiema has denied calling for strike, noting that the directive was meant to protect its members.

Mr Ndiema asked KQ to stop using its financial woes as a reason not to pay its workers well, arguing that the airline should pay its workers well to reap maximum output by its employees.

He accused KQ management of ignoring union’s call to iron out outstanding issues regarding the direct flight forcing the union to resort to boycott.

The union pointed out that among the outstanding issues is amendment of the Collective bargaining Agreement (CBA) to allow its members to operate legally and in compliance with aviation laws.

He says the union workers are currently allowed to work for 12.5 hours and extra 2.5 hours and yet direct flight is 19 hours, allegedly exposing the crew members to legal issues regarding the work permit.

Special terms

Kawu is asking for special terms for cabin crew on the long-haul flight, insisting allocation of additional staff would allow each cabin crew member “adequate” time to rest in-flight.

Besides, the unionists want the cabin crew to be paid Sh20,000 allowance per hour exceeded up to a maximum of 21 hours duty period, “in line with international aviation standards”.

KQ has offered to pay the crew Sh5,000 per hour.

The government’s stake in KQ stands at 48.9 per cent, followed by 10 local banks (38.1 per cent).

The rest of the KQ shares are held by local and foreign institutional and individual investors.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said the upcoming direct flights represent a significant achievement that could transform trade and cultural relations between the US and Kenya.

Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was in February last year granted Category One status, paving the way for US Federal Aviation Administration officials to approve non-stop direct flights between Nairobi and New York.

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