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Kenya Airways pilots call off strike after assurance by State House

By Moses Michira | October 18th 2016

Kenya Airways pilots have suspended a strike that was scheduled to begin today, offering major relief for the already troubled airline.

Officials of the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (KALPA) announced yesterday evening that their day-long negotiations held with various government ministries had yielded a compromise on their demands.

Among their biggest score was the appointment of former Safaricom chief executive Michael Joseph as chairman.

Top KQ officials and Chief Executive Mbuvi Ngunze, who were targets of the strike threat, survived the pilots' onslaught – at least for now.

Kalpa Secretary General Paul Gichinga said the pilots had agreed to call off the strike after assurances from the state that their demands would be met.

"We trust that the management of Kenya Airways will abide by the assurances and commitments it has given us," Mr Gichinga said in a press conference yesterday evening before announcing that the strike had been deferred.

He was flanked by Mr Joseph as the only director of the airline.

"We have deferred the strike action to give dialogue a chance, so that we do not have to put a gun to each other's heads," Gichinga added.

Day-long meeting

It was agreed following a day-long closed-door meeting, first with the Labour Cabinet Secretary and later with State House, that the aviators would call off their industrial action to allow the state to meet their demands progressively.

Gichinga said State House had been consulted and weighed in on the matter before the pilots were persuaded to drop their demands.

Mr Joseph said there would be a board meeting next Wednesday when the pilots' demands would be discussed, including a ratification of his appointment.

"KQ is a listed company where any significant changes have to be approved by directors and the other shareholders," he said.

He had earlier revealed to The Standard an agreement that would see him formally selected to chair the board, taking over from Dennis Awori.

A pilots' strike would have had a crippling impact on Kenya Airways operations, which is already troubled and dealing with another threat from contracted staff, including cabin crews.

Kalpa, which is among the most powerful lobby groups going by the impact of past strikes, heeded the call of Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia who had requested them to shelve their plans.

Mr Macharia had late last week threatened pilots with tough action should they strike amid massive booking cancellations as a result of the pending industrial action.

He said the planned strike was illegal as it was driven by selfish interests by individuals engineering a takeover of management.

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