Kenya Airways to pay former staff Sh126m for unfair dismissal

Struggling national carrier Kenya Airways has suffered a major blow after an industrial court ordered it to pay 47 former employers Sh126 million for unfair dismissal.

This is after the former employees successfully challenged the termination of their contracts.

On Thursday, Justice Bernard Odongo Matanga Manani, of the Employment and Labour Relations Court, declared that the procedure adopted by Kenya Airways in terminating the contracts was flawed.

“The court declares the Respondent’s (Kenya Airways Company Limited) decision to terminate the contracts of service for the 47 Claimants as procedurally unfair. The Respondent failed to adhere to the procedure for terminating an employee’s contract of service as prescribed under section 41 of the Employment Act as read with chapter 17 of the Respondent’s Human Resource Manual,” ruled the court.

Unfair termination

The judge ruled that the 47 are entitled to compensation for unfair termination of their contracts of service in the sum that is equivalent to each of the 47 claimant’s four months’ gross salary.

“The court awards each of the 47 Claimants the sum of Sh2,700,000.00 (per Claimant) as compensation for violation of their constitutional rights,” said the judge.

According to court records, the former employees all served in the company’s Technical Department and were responsible for maintenance and servicing of aircrafts.

They informed the court that their terms and conditions of service were poor and unfavorable unlike their compatriots in the aviation industry.

They said they started negotiations with the company over their terms and conditions of work, and an agreement was reached.

They said the management defaulted on the agreement, prompting them to constitute a seven-member committee to engage the company directly instead of relying on a trade union.

They said they withdrew their membership from their trade union before they formed the committee. They averred that despite serving the company’s management with letters of withdrawal of their membership from their trade union, it insisted on only engaging the union over the matters that were under consideration.

The former workers alleged that their passes were deactivated after they were reportedly invited to a meeting on November 28, 2017.

The meeting, however, failed to take place after the company’s representatives failed to show up.

They told the court that they congregated at one of the company’s hangars as they awaited the management to join them for the meeting. 

The former employees claimed they were later removed from the premises by police officers on the grounds they were involved in an illegal strike.

The company, they said, issued them with letters dated November 29, 2017, terminating their contracts.

In its defense, Kenya Airways said the former workers were relieved of their employment after participating in an unauthorized strike.