Transit passengers to be transferred to other airlines, CS Murkomen on KQ pilots crisis

Transport Cabinet Secretary Kipchumba Murkomen during a meeting with pilots' union representatives at the ministry's headquarters in Nairobi on November 4, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS) Kipchumba Murkomen said on Saturday afternoon, November 5, that 10,000 passengers were stranded following the pilots crisis that has rocked the Kenya Airways.

The pilots are on industrial action over unmet grievances.

CS Murkomen said at least 15 planes were grounded, interrupting flight schedules and leaving thousands of passengers frustrated.

Murkomen said transit KQ passengers, scheduled to make a stopover at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi on Saturday, will be transferred to other airlines, whose operations weren't affected.

The pilots, through their union, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), is demanding that KQ restarts contributions to its staff pension fund that was stopped during the pandemic, and the payment of all salaries that were accrued at the time.

The KQ pension scheme needs at least Sh1.3 billion annually, with pilots taking home the largest chunk of the kitty - Sh700 million - which is equivalent to 53.8 per cent of the funds.

The KQ pilots also want the airline's board and executives removed, citing governance issues.

Murkomen said on Saturday that attempts to engage KALPA to rescind their strike hit the wall after the pilots allegedly refused to compromise.

Below is the Transport minister's full press statement:

"Yesterday (4th November 2022), in the company of my colleague the Cabinet Secretary for Labour Hon. Florence Bore, we engaged the management of Kenya Airways and the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) in a 5-hour discussion to avert the current strike.

"During the meeting, we listened to the concerns raised by the pilots with a view of coming up with a solution that would prevent the strike.

"The management of Kenya Airways further expressed willingness to openly engage in extensive negotiations to address the grievances raised by the pilots.

"As a result, a committee was proposed, to be chaired by the Principal Secretary for Labour Eng. Peter Tum, with a clear mandate of engaging KALPA and Kenya Airways on ways of addressing the pressing issues that have occasioned the strike.

"We requested the pilots to call off the strike even as the proposed committee addresses their concerns. KALPA officials asked for a two-hour time off to consult on the matter.

"Unfortunately, they did not heed the calls to suspend the strike which has led to massive disruptions in Kenya Airways operations.

"The action taken by the pilots, considering the economic challenges and the biting drought, is akin to economic sabotage. This morning, I visited the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) and was saddened to learn that so far, over 15 flights have been cancelled and 10,000 passengers stranded.

"It is estimated that the airline will lose Ksh300 million daily as a result of the strike which is counterproductive if you consider the demands made by the pilots.

"Apart from that, the strike will negatively affect the economy, especially the transport and tourism sectors. I have been briefed by the Kenya Airways management that they are working with other airlines to reroute some of the connecting passengers, even as we seek a lasting solution to the challenge at hand.

"Based on the foregoing, I urge KALPA to consider the following:

"1. That they should obey the court order that suspended the strike and give the established Committee a chance to work on resolving their grievances.

"2. That the Government of Kenya has injected billions of shillings in its efforts to turn around the fortunes of Kenya Airways, and is, therefore, keen to see these issues resolved. For progress to be made on this front, therefore, it is imperative that KALPA calls off the strike and returns to the negotiation table.

"Already, the Government is thinking of ways to restructure Kenya Airways and make it a self-sustaining company with a more responsive working environment where it will protect the welfare of the pilots and where the pilots will not hold the company hostage.

"I wish to extend my sincere apologies to all the passengers and transporters who have been affected by the strike.

"As a ministry, we will continue to do everything possible to ensure this impasse is resolved as fast as possible."