Kipchuma Murkomen urges pilots to obey court order and call off strike

Capt Timothy Njoroge KALPA chairman, Capt Murithi Nyagah KALPA secretary General and Capt Dzochera Warrakah deputy general secretary of Kenya Airline Pilots Association spoke in reference to the 14-day notice of industrial action. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The fate of operations at national carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) remained uncertain with pilots yet to commit to ending a strike scheduled today.

This was despite a five-hour meeting late into yesterday night with Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen who told them to obey a court order against the strike.  

Under the umbrella of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), the KQ pilots had vowed to ground flights at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport starting today morning after talks between them and the airline’s management collapsed. 

Kalpa said that KQ had failed to address their key grievances with the airline maintaining that the strike is illegal as it had already been suspended by the Labour Court.

CS Murkomen urged the pilots to obey the court order at least until Tuesday with Kalpa set to have given an update on the fate of the strike by 9 pm yesterday. 

“We have had very good consultations related to their (pilots) concerns. We have agreed on principle that we must find a mechanism for further consultation through a small committee,” said the CS.

Murkomen said that the KQ management had expressed its willingness to consider the pilots’ demands. However, the pilots had requested to further consult with their colleagues.

“We have asked them to be considerate considering there is a county order. But the pilots through their trade union said they need further consultation and promised to give their position in the next two hours.”

Labour CS Florence Mbore said that government would provide the environment for deliberations to find a solution.

“Those issues that can be sorted now will be sorted. For those that need more time, we will have Principal Secretary Peter Tum look into them in a week or so,” she said. 

We will provide the environment to discuss and dialogue to get solutions.

Among the ‘better working conditions that the pilots want is the reinstatement of a provident fund that was discontinued at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

The provident fund would see KQ contribute 10 per cent towards their pension while the employer matched the contribution.

Their grievances include claims of victimisation and harassment of KALPA members, nonadherence to regulations, collective bargaining agreement and signed agreements.

The pilots are also not satisfied with the leadership and governance of the troubled airline.

However, the KQ Board, led by its chairperson Michael Joseph, maintained that “none of the grievances advanced by KALPA merits an industrial strike and firmly holds that all CBAs must align with the need to restructure the Airline’s operations towards profitability and efficiency.”

On October 21, two days after Kalpa had issued a strike notice, the ministry of labour initiated a consultative dialogue, which it would oversee.

Consequently, Kalpa was supposed to call off the strike and await the outcome of the dialogue.

However, Kalpa said it “cannot participate in the process with the individuals that are currently holding managerial positions at Kenya Airways Plc.”

KQ chief executive Allan Kilavuka said that a decision to proceed with the strike will be “unlawful and contrary to the Recognition Agreement and Collective Bargain Agreement, and statute law, which guides our relationship.”

KQ has been going through turbulent times that were aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the time, both domestic and international flights were grounded as countries sought to curb the spread of the viral disease.

Sources told The Standard that even after the pilots on Thursday met both the management and government officials, no resolutions were made with the government and KQ insisting that there was no money.

KQ reported a Sh9.86 billion loss for the six months ending June 2022, a 14.4 per cent improvement from the Sh11.5 billion loss the national carrier reported during a similar period last year.

Under a programme that Kenya has with the International Monetary Fund, KQ has been relying on support from the government, and in return, the national carrier has committed to undertaking a restructuring.

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