Kenya Airways has made good its threat to fire 140 engineers and technicians who had been on a go-slow, threatening to ground the national carrier’s operations.
The airline on Wednesday evening issued dismissal letters to the employees. It said they had ignored three warning letters to explain their absence from work.
The dismissal of the striking engineers and technicians comes amid talent flight from the airline, which has lost 80 engineers over the past one-and-a-half years to Middle Eastern carriers, triggering fears the airline’s operations could be compromised.
Kenya Airways, however, said its technical department had 600 employees and also uses the resources of other partner airlines, especially when in other hubs.
The airline said it had resorted to firing the engineers and technicians as they left the company “without other options.” “Three warning calls were issued to the striking staff yesterday (Tuesday). As at 3pm this afternoon (Wednesday), none of the striking employees had heeded this warning,” said Chief Executive Sebastian Mikosz in a statement on Wednesday.
“Left with no other choice management has taken necessary action.”
Some of the striking technical department employees said they received their dismissal letters via email while others said they could not get access to their work stations and hence could not confirm receipt of the letters. The airline has blocked the striking employees’ access.
“Some of our members have been issued with letters, but not all have been able to access their emails and find out whether they have been issued with letters,” said one of the affected officials who declined to be named.
“We have initiated a legal process, which will involve moving to court to stop more letters from being issued as well as get the airline to recall the letters that have already been sent to some of the employees.”
The official said about 208 employees had been affected, against the airline’s 140. KQ had on Wednesday said it had met demands for a pay hike by the engineers, with the pay increase implemented this April and backdated to March this year.
According to the airline, a technical assistant earning Sh120,000 now earns Sh200,000. “The current demands for salary increment come barely seven months after receiving a pay rise,” said Mikosz in the statement, adding that the increse was implemented despite the airline’s financial situation.
“The management will not be held to ransom by these engineers and technicians.” Officials, however, said technical assistants earned a much lower gross pay of Sh79,000 a month and not the Sh200,000 the airline claimed.