Kenya Airways (KQ) has recruited 40 local pilots this year as part of efforts to plug a biting personnel shortage, even as the airline defended its decision to hire foreign pilots on contract.
The hiring comes despite a trade dispute with the pilots’ union which accuses the national carrier of reneging on a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
KQ told The Standard that the recruited Kenyan pilots would later take up the vacancies being currently filled with contract pilots, but they needed a minimum experience of six years.
“Our aim is clearly not to do away with Kenyan pilots as the contract pilots will only be in the service of the airline for two years after which they will be replaced by Kenyan pilots,” said the airline in a statement.
The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) recently suspended further CBA negotiations with the employer, in addition to filing a trade dispute seeking arbitration with the Ministry of Labour.
Kalpa felt that KQ’s decision to hire the foreign pilots on contract for its Boeing 737 fleet was a “gross violation” of its CBA.
The airline said it was in “full compliance” with the provisions of the CBA, which allows it to recruit contract pilots whenever there is a shortage.
In the statement, KQ said there was currently a deficit of 60 pilots and aimed to continue hiring locally as well as externally.
“The CBA allows the company to recruit contract pilots for route expansion, reduction of accumulated leave and to allow for training of the existing pilots,” it said.
The carrier said the average KQ pilot has over 100 days of accumulated leave with the current pilot numbers insufficient to support the route network.
KQ rejected claims of a standoff with Kalpa and said that talks would resume when the trade dispute mechanism is completed.