Kenya Airways Plc has obtained a court order to stop a strike that pilots planned to begin on Wednesday, a bid to avoid disrupting flights for thousands of travelers.
The Kenya Airline Pilots Association issued a notice for industrial action over allegations that the state-controlled airline failed to abide by mutual agreements and suspended contributions to a provident fund.
“We were not able to strike an agreement,” the airline’s Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said at a briefing on Tuesday in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. “We are still open and willing to have discussions regarding the grievances they have raised.”
The pilots association’s Secretary-General Murithi Nyagah said the union wasn’t aware of the court order stopping their action when contacted immediately after Kilavuka’s remarks.
Kenya Airways currently transports more than 250,000 passengers each month. A strike would put at stake an average of 60 to 70 flights and revenue of around 300 million shillings ($2.5 million) daily, according to Kilavuka.
Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) has threatened to go on strike. In a notice dated October 19, Kalpa has alluded to disputes with Kenya Airways (KQ) management which includes, among other issues, the withdrawal of the staff provident fund.
The CEO was categorical that funding both the Provident Fund and deferred pay at this point, would require additional government funding. “We cannot afford to pay the deferred salaries and the Provident Fund at the same time.
“We appreciate the Government’s support that has enabled Kenya Airways to remain in operation during this difficult time. We are, however, cognizant that the government has more pressing challenges, like the current drought, and we must do all we can to become self-sustaining”.
The CEO was confident that with the continued sacrifices and hard work by staff, and the improving business environment, KQ would be able to reinstate the fund in mid-2023, all things remaining constant.
The Ministry of Labour recently proposed a formal consultative meeting and asked Kalpa to call off the threatened industrial action to allow for the conciliation process to proceed.
Interesting questions arise
Is the intended strike really about airline issues or is it an ad hominem attack against select individuals at KQ aimed at forcing them out of the company? Has the KQ management demonstrated “incompetence, poor leadership and governance” as stated in a Kalpa letter to the conciliator? Has the provident fund been unilaterally and unreasonably withheld as the pilots allege?
A critical look at Kalpa’s assertions of poor airline management reveals them to be unsupported by any metrics of performance. In fact, data from annual reports and other sources point to the polar opposite.
For instance, whereas KQ’s top line has always registered growth, the bottom line has, for close to a decade, told a different story. However, under current management, the problematic differences appear to have been resolved as reflected in the higher revenues and improved operational efficiencies.
It is noteworthy that Kalpa accounts for just 10 percent of KQ’s workforce, yet takes home the equivalent of 45 percent of the overall pay to employees.