Kenya Airways has branded a planned strike by its pilots as “unlawful”, saying it will damage passengers’ travel plans, hurt farmers and prevent a recovery at the struggling airline.
The Kenya Airlines Pilot Association (KALPA) announced strike action will start on November 5, 2022 at 0600, defying a court order secured by the airline to prevent the walkout. The walkout means no Kenya Airways flights will depart Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO) in Nairobi flown by a KALPA member.
“We cannot overstate the severe economic impact of this action on different sectors and the entire ecosystem reliant on KQ,” Kenya Airways CEO Allan Kilavuka commented in a statement on November 4, 2022. He said that the strike will cost the airline approximately KES 300 million ($2.5 million) a day, equivalent to KES 2.1 billion ($17 million) per week.
The airline said the industrial action would affect passengers and cargo customers. “It will greatly inconvenience travelers for business, medical, leisure, and those connecting with their loved ones. This could also lead to huge losses to farmers whose perishable goods are due for export.”
Why are the pilots striking?
The union has criticized the airline for halting payments to a staff provident fund, harassing staff and breaching civil aviation regulations.
In a statement, KALPA said issuing the strike notice back in October was a “last resort in our attempts to seek better working conditions for our members and ensure that Kenya Airways is managed professionally.”
However, it said management had not made any meaningful attempt to engage and resolve the issues it raised.
“Sadly, Kenya Airways Managements’ actions have left us with no other option.”
Statement on Withdrawal of Labour by KQ Pilots pic.twitter.com/pVThvhJjnj
— KALPA Kenya (@kalpa_kenya) November 4, 2022
Facing the sack?
The chief executive further described the strike as “an unwelcome distraction”.
“The intended unlawful industrial action negates the strides KQ has made this year in improving its financial position following the COVID pandemic that affected the economy,” Kilavuka commented. “It is also counterproductive to the Government of Kenya’s efforts to revive our economy and detracts from current efforts to ameliorate the extremely needy cases of Kenyans suffering from the effects of severe drought,”
Kilavuka has already warned that pilots who go on strike will face consequences, such as losing their job.
The union has not said when the strike will end.