KQ says it does not need sacked workers

Kenya Airways chief executive officer Sebastian Mikosz. file photo | nmg
Kenya Airways chief executive officer Sebastian Mikosz. file photo | nmg 

National carrier Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ has rejected a High Court directive that it takes back the more than 100 engineers it sacked late last year, arguing that it does not need their services.

KQ, as the airline is popularly known, says in papers filed at the Court of Appeal that it has moved on with its business and cannot accommodate the technicians who were reinstated last December.

“The applicant no longer requires the services of the respondents (the engineers). First, because the applicant believes that they deserved to be summarily dismissed and secondly, because the applicant has restructured such that their reinstatement would only subject the applicant to further irreparable loss,” Latifa Cherono-Murage, a KQ HR relationship manager, says in an affidavit.

Employment and Labour Relations Division judge Hellen Wasilwa had cited safety of aircraft and passengers as reason for quashing the sacking of the engineers, pending hearing and determination of the claim they filed.

KQ, however, proceeded to send the engineers on compulsory leave and appealed the decision.

The sacked engineers have, however, refuted Kenya Airways’ claim, insisting the airline is in serious distress of workmanship that has since forced it to outsource the servicing of its planes at a higher cost.

The sacked employees claim that some of KQ’s airplanes are being serviced by Etihad personnel based in Abu Dhabi.

The planes fly from Dubai to Abu Dhabi without passengers and stay for two days before flying back to Kenya. This is unlike the previous arrangement where the checks and servicing were done in Kenya and within a few hours.

Kenya Airways insists that they have enough technical personnel of 467 workers with 127 workers who are qualified to certify the planes as fit for flight.

The engineers, however, claim that most of the technicians and engineers provided in the response to Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) have ceased to be employees of the airline.

The workers further claim that some of them were off-duty, on leave or working for KQ outside the country on the date they are accused of having participated in the illegal strike.

KQ is determined and wants the Court of Appeal to reverse the interim reinstatement orders even as the suit continues in the labour court.

The airline argues that the judge made substantive decision even before it responded to the suit filed by the sacked engineers.

KQ in its appeal suit refers to the engineers as ‘former employees’ despite their reinstatement and being sent on compulsory leave. The workers were sent on compulsory leave on December 18, when they reported back to work.

Kenya Airways sent the affected engineers on compulsory leave for 30 days, effective December 18 arguing that the time off would allow it to “reorganise the shifts, work plans and the required resources to enable [them] report for duty.

The engineers want higher pay and better terms, but KQ reckons that the workers’ demand is too steep and cannot be immediately met.