Kenya Airways board to decide on contracts of five expatriates

Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Kenya Airways chief executive Sebastian Mikosz. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ board of directors is set to decide on the fate of five expatriate managers who were hired by new CEO Sebastian Mikosz and whose contracts have now expired.

The five expatriates were head-hunted from LOT Polish Airlines as part of the team expected to turn around the fortunes of the financially troubled national carrier, popularly known as KQ.

They had previously worked with Mr Mikosz in rescuing the Polish national carrier from collapse.

“They return to Poland in the next few days. A new decision will be made early next year,” said board chairman Michael Joseph in an interview.

Hired in September with the approval of the KQ board, the team was supposed to serve for three months after which a decision was to be made on whether to give them longer contracts.

The five senior managers include Monika Kietyka-Michna, former chief corporate officer at LOT Polish Airlines, Edyta Kijewska-Teny, a data and IT systems expert, and Magdalena Serwach, a corporate governance expert.

The others are Marcin Celejwski, a former chief commercial officer at LOT Polish Airlines, and Micha mierciak, who once ran LOT Polish Airlines’ procurement centralisation.

Mr Joseph on Friday said that he was “happy with their contribution” so far, but declined to say whether this meant their contracts are likely to be renewed.

“This will be a board decision in due course,” he said.

Mr Mikosz, to whom Mr Joseph referred us for more details regarding the expatriates’ tenure, had not responded to our queries by the time of going to press. 

Earlier this year, KQ said that it would not replace anyone on the national carrier’s senior management but would work with the existing employees to improve operations.

The airline has been keen to rein in its payroll, being one of the biggest contributors to its cost base.

KQ’s staff costs have fallen in the past two years from the 2015 peak of Sh17 billion, to last year’s Sh15.5 billion.

Mr Mikosz took over as CEO of KQ in June this year. His experience turning around LOT Polish Airlines counted in the decision to hire him. 

In September Mr Mikosz told journalists that the five expats had been integral to the Polish turnaround and that he could trust them to “hit the ground [running]” in Kenya.

The decision to hire them, however, brooked some protest with the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) accusing KQ of exporting jobs that could be done by locals.

KQ’s financial trouble is attributable to heavy debt borrowed in recent years.

Mr Mikosz is expected to lead the rescue bid, ‘Project Safari’. There have, however, already been hurdles to overcome in the months since he took over.

Recently the airline had a run-in with its workers after engineers in Kenya went on strike while industrial action in Nigeria disrupted flights.  KQ sought to fire the striking engineers and hire new ones in their place, a move that was, however, blocked in court.

Last Thursday, the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) in Nigeria old the Business Daily that its members had agreed to go back to their work stations with the hope that the standoff would be resolved by Monday.