National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) on Tuesday started laying off its employees in what it termed a right sizing exercise that is expected to be concluded on September 30.
While the layoffs are expected to affect employees across the board, the first in the firing line are some 800 workers that are only six months old at the carrier having been hired in January.
The airline is fighting to stay afloat as it continues to suffer the effects of the coronavirus pandemic that had at some point grounded nearly all its operations save for cargo.
The carrier will use different strategies to trim the excess fat, including voluntary retirement, leave of absence and termination of contracted staff.
The first casualties comprising the 800 staff had been brought on board on contract from some of its suppliers as part of the airline’s turnaround plans, which included expanding to new routes.
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According to its recently published annual report, KQ said beginning January this year, there was a movement of “staff from the outsourced labour providers into KQ by insourcing 835 staff.”
This was expected to increase the morale of this cadre of staff.
The carrier said it had on Tuesday started terminating contracts of the staff who had been hired effective January 1 from the outsourced companies.
In a statement to employees, the firm said following the outbreak of Covid-19, its business needs had shifted and the company could no longer sustain the expanded workforce.
Unionisable staff might, however, be saved from the axe, at least for now, following a court order on July 10 after the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) objected the move. The Employment and Labour Relations Court restrained the implementation of any right-sizing initiatives by KQ, saying it would contravene the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the airline and KAWU.
An insider said KQ has also notified its staff that the order only applied to KAWU members and does not extend to other staff.
The company had 4,775 employees of which 3 734 were permanent, while 1,041 were outsourced.
The firm’s employee costs, which include salaries and other benefits, went up by Sh1 billion to Sh17 billion by the end of the financial year to December last year from Sh16 billion in 2018.
In a communique to employees at the start of this month when the airline announced that it would start laying off employees, chief executive Allan Kilavuka noted that it was inevitable to reduce the firm’s size.
KQ had in March reduced pay for its employees by between 25 and 50 per cent, while those in management took a 75 per cent cut. Mr Kilavuka took an 80 per cent pay cut.