We won’t allow KQ to irregularly takeover JKIA, MPs vow

Passengers stranded at JKIA after Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) staff down their tools over the proposed merger of KQ and KAA. [Jonah Onyango/Standard]
A parliamentary committee has assured striking aviation workers it will not back the proposed deal between Kenya Airports Authority and Kenya Airways to allow the airline run a major airport unless due process is followed.

The National Assembly Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing appealed to the striking workers to resume duty, noting that house team will ensure that all their concerns are addressed first before KQ takes over Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Speaking Wednesday, the committee chairperson David Pkosing (Pokot South) said parliament will have the last word on whether the cash-strapped national carrier will be allowed to take-over the country’s airports.

“Our committee is seized of the matter.  We would like to reassure Kenyans and the aviation workers that no ‘marriage’ will happen between KQ and KAA until parliament is involved and the contentious issues are first sorted out,” said the chairperson.

For the better part of Wednesday, thousands of passengers were stranded at JKIA, after aviation staff downed their tools starting at 3am.

The workers under Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) are fiercely opposed to the planned merger of the airport to struggling national airline through a Privately Initiated Investment Proposal (PIIP).

The workers say the plans will render most of them jobless and want the planned merger which is being scrutinized by parliament   to be discarded.

Operations affected by the strike include aircraft maintenance, cabin crew services, air traffic control, security, fire and rescue, ground flight services, engineering and finance.

Mr Pkosing who was accompanied by his fellow committee members including his Vice chair Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), heaped blame on the management of KQ and KAA for being the cause of the strike.

Others were Gachagua Rigathi (Mathira), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Gideon Mulyungi (Mwingi Central), Vincent Kemosi (West Mugirango), Tom Odege (Nyatike), Mugambi Murwithania (Buuri) , Ahmed Bashane (Tarbaj)

The committee boss explained that the two entities and the Ministry of Transport have ensured the planned merger is shrouded in mystery, a matter that has caused anxiety among the workers.

“The fear of the workers is legitimate, they may wake up one morning and find themselves jobless. The problem we are having is because the management of KQ and KAA have refused to engage their primary customers who are their workers,” said Pkosing.

According to the committee chairperson, the house team will next week meet the union officials of the aviation workers next week, to get their views on the controversial merger proposal.

“We are currently interrogating PIIP by the national carrier. We shall meet KAWU officials next week. As a team we will not leave any gray area un-attended as far as this matter of national importance is concerned, “said Pkosing.

Last week top officials of KAA and KQ clashed over the proposed take-over of the airports, when they appeared before the same house team.

KQ Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz and KAA Managing Director Jonny Andersen seemed to read from different scripts in regards to the controversial deal.

Mr Mikosz, while making his submissions before the Pokot South MP-led committee, denied reports the national airline was planning to completely take over KAA.

“Our intention is not to buy or merge JKIA but to have a co-association operator deal meaning, the land and buildings will remain owned by KAA” he said.

“The word merger or acquisition is not applicable in this matter,” the KQ boss said.

Mr Andersen, however, expressed reservations on going forward with the plan.

He told MPs the restructuring proposal was the brainchild of KQ and that KAA board of directors was apprehensive about the PIIP tabled by KQ with the backing of the Cabinet.

He pleaded with the MPs to ensure due diligence before reaching a conclusion.

“KAA has not accepted KQ PIIP proposal. We are not in a position to deny or accept it. However, the analysis we have done so far has yielded significant gaps that need to be addressed first,” he said.

KAA is a public entity whose assets must be handled in the most practical way, Andersen said.

 “We are reserved regarding the proposal but we ask for help from this committee and the relevant ministry to look into ways of strengthening the aviation sector to regain profitability,” said the KAA MD.

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National Assembly Committee on TransportKQJomo Kenyatta International AirportKAAKAWU