Airlines’ umbrella body tells off KQ pilots over planned strike

The Kenya Association of Air Operators (KAAO) has told Kenya Airways pilots planning an industrial strike from Saturday to reconsider the action as it could exaggerate losses and dent the airline’s recovery efforts.

Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) said Friday that its members working for KQ will proceed on strike after failure to reach negotiations with Kenya Airways management in regards to improved working conditions and better management of the flag carrier which is yet to fly out of financial losses.

“This is a matter of grave importance to us as it not only affect our member, Kenya Airways, who we equivocally support, but also each player in the aviation industry, the welfare of the Kenyan people and the stability of the Kenyan economy which was already badly affected by the effects of COVID-19 pandemic,” said KAAO in a statement.

KALPA in a letter dated November 4, 2022 warned travelers who have booked tickets with the airline of looming inconvenience from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

“KALPA the representative voice of all pilots in the country, Kenya Airways included, wishes to inform members of the public that beginning Saturday 5th November 2022, from 6AM local time, there shall be no Kenya Airways aircraft departing JKIA flown by KALA member,” said Murithi Nyagah, KALPA Secretary General.

Talks between the pilots and KQ have not borne fruits with negotiators failing to reach a deal after KALPA issued a two-week strike notice on October 19, 2022.

According to KAAO, the planned strike by the pilots is untimely given that airlines were among the worst hit firms during the pandemic which also exacerbated KQ woes even with government-backed financial restructuring.

“We consider this action poorly considered in that KALPA is holding both the airline management and the government at ransom over a matter which should be dealt with without resorting to such an extreme course of action,” added KAAO.

On Monday, KQ Chief Executive Officer Allan Kilavuka said the airline had secured a court injunction stopping the planned industrial action insisting the airline cannot meet the demand as it is yet to emerge out of the financial red.

In half year to June, the flag carrier trimmed net losses to Ksh 9.8 billion from Ksh 11.5 billion recorded last year.

The association says the strike is the last option it has after attempts to meet management to discuss improved working conditions and ensure the KQ is managed professionally proved futile.

“We hoped that the management of the airline would soften its hard stance and engage in a negotiation on the issues raised.”

Nyagah added, “..,Kenya Airways Management has not made any meaningful attempt to engage and have these matters resolved.”

KQ had estimated daily losses at Ksh 300 million ($2.5 million) should the Saturday strike commence as planned, a move KAAO says will also affect other players in the value chain, dent KQ recovery efforts and the aviation sector as a whole.

“…we would hope that KALPA takes this into consideration and engage the management in a more rational manner,” added KAAO.

KALPA has defended itself saying after the expiry of the strike notice it issued last month, its members have a right to withdraw their services.

Should the two sides fail to reach a deal by end of day, KQ is likely to ground flights leaving travelers to seek alternatives.

  

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