Kenya Airways is considering sacking the 400 striking pilots as most of the aircraft remain grounded and flights suspended.
The pilots at one of Africa’s largest carriers laid down their tools on Saturday, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. Their grievance started about two years back when the company announced plans to cut the pilot staff by half over a period of three years, which the employees have been resisting.
The pilots are also demanding the reinstatement of their provident fund which was scrapped on grounds that the company could no longer afford it. As they started the strike, the pilots under the umbrella Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) said the carrier’s management had declined to listen to their proposals on how to resolve their grievances.
As the strike entered day three today Monday, the company’s management said they had reduced the flights because of the failure of the majority of the pilots to report to work. The company added that the pilots were not approaching the reconciliation process in good faith.
“We are at a stalemate. They are holding passengers, other employees, management and the economy at ransom,” said Allan Kilavuka, the managing director, warning that time was running out for negotiations,” KQ said in a statement.
“We reiterate that negotiations require good faith and compromise. KQ management is open and willing to talk but the window of opportunity is closing,” says the CEO in a statement.
By today morning, the company had only seven scheduled flights out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, two of them domestic flights to Mombasa. Of the other five, two flights were to and from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), while flights to Entebbe International Airport were reduced to one, the same with Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Johannesburg (South Africa) and Lusaka-Harare (Zambia and Zimbabwe).
On Sunday, 500 passengers were kept for hours in hotels as the company made arrangements to distribute them on other flights, “as soon as possible” after 56 flights were cancelled. In total, according to management, 12,000 passengers were affected by the disruption.
Kenya Airways is also a major means of cargo transportation, including fresh produce from the East African region mainly to Europe and the Middle East but Kilavuka said they had not carried any fresh produce to the two destinations since the strike started on Saturday morning.
Kilavuka adds that the carrier also transports 20 tonnes of pharmaceuticals per day, but has not been able to bring in any. Efforts aimed at resolving the standoff have so far borne no fruit as both sides accuse each other of refusal to let up.
The Kenya Airlines Pilots Association says the management of the company has refused to listen to their demands, adding that their action was in accordance with the provisions of the law. On Sunday, Kipchumba Murkomen, the minister for Transport minister urged the pilots to adhere to a court order and return to work.
“Considering the defiance of KALPA and their total disregard for the existing court order, which is at the heart of the rule of law, the ministry of Labour now has to activate the procedures governing industrial relations,” the minister said.
The company said they have given the pilots several concessions on condition that they return to work, but later on, in the afternoon of Sunday, they said they were ready to return to work, but “they, however, did not provide any substantive changes to their original demands,” according to company’s CEO.
“Kalpa is ready to call off this industrial action to allow Kenya Airways to resume full operations immediately. However, this is totally dependent on Kenya Airways management agreeing to resolve the issues raised by the pilots,” the pilots said in a statement.