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Kenya Airways pilots threaten to down their tools

By Moses Michira | April 27th 2016

Kenya Airways pilots have announced a 48-hour strike notice demanding the resignation of the airline’s top management.

The ultimatum, the second to be issued in 2016, is expected to take effect tomorrow (Thursday) when the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (KALPA) plans to withdraw all of its members to ground the airline's operations.

KQ has responded to the threat, terming it illegal and in bad faith, considering that negotiations with the pilots’ body were ongoing.

Among the main objections with the airline’s management is an impending transfer of some of its members to a rival firm Ethiopian Airlines.

“Come Thursday, no aircraft will get airborne,” secretary general of the bobby group Paul Gichinga said. Mbuvi Ngunze is the group chief executive of Kenya Airways, the national carrier that reported Sh29 billion in pre-tax loss in the last financial year.

“This is a proper strike, and not a go slow,” Mr Gichinga, flanked by about 20 captains, said in a press conference yesterday. KQ yesterday cited that the 48-hour notice was too short, since the law allowed for a minimum of a week.

“We are surprised and consider it the height of insincerity, bad faith and an act of economic sabotage for Kalpa to allege to issue a strike notice knowing fully well the current challenging business environment facing the airline and also in light of the ongoing consultations,” KQ said in a statement.

Average Salary

All of KQ’s 485 pilots are members of the association, Kalpa said, before describing that their average salary of Sh900,000 as below the market rates. The carrier has about 38 planes that are operational.

KQ is however struggling with excess capacity and has been forced to ground some of its craft, outright disposals for others and is already on leasing agreements for other planes. Three Boeing 777-300 range planes are on lease to Turkish Airlines, the pilots said before claiming that the transaction was irregular and that the jets are not in service yet.

The strike threat would have grave effect for the airline that is already struggling with falling revenues and fierce competition from rival airlines.

The association is basing most of the claims on an explosive report done by sacked finance director Alex Mbugua, who has since challenged his dismissal in court. 

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