Monday, 17 October 2016

Kenya Airways Pilots Strike

Kenya Airways (KQ) faces further turbulent times.Airline finally resumes cancelled flights but pilots insist strike still on from tomorrow Yesterday, the airline had cancelled five flights to various African countries as go-slow by its outsourced staff begun to weigh on its operations.

And last evening, the airline announced that operations had returned to normalcy adding that 67 flights had taken off “from the around the network as at 4pm Kenyan time.”

The flight cancellations were occasioned by a strike by at least 500 employees outsourced by KQ through Career Direction Ltd (CDL) who began work boycott last Friday.

Flights 600 to Mombasa, 432 to Kilimajaro, 350 to Juba, 706 to Lusaka/Harare and 740 to Maputo were cancelled after their crew failed to report to work. Flight 782 to Livingston/Cape Town was also delayed, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded.

This month alone, the airline has cancelled or delayed flights twice, putting the ‘Pride of Africa’ into more troubles.

On October 2, KQ delayed flights at Moi International Airport and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The contracted employees have decried poor remuneration, which they want addressed by the airline that has continued to post huge losses despite its efforts to cut down on its wage bill by outsourcing crew and other low cadre employees.

“Some of our outsourced staff including cabin crew have stayed away from work from Friday and we are working with their employer to resolve any issues they may have,” KQ said in a statement.

“Despite our effort to solve the problem by combining several flights, we have made the difficult decision to cancel some as the safety of our guests is paramount,” it added.

Further chaos is expected as the pilots, despite a court order, have insisted that their strike notice that expires early tomorrow morning is on.

Yesterday, the Ministry of East Africa Community, Social Protection and Labor announced that it had convened a conciliation meeting today between various parties to seek an amicable settlement on the issues that have given rise to the pilot’s strike notice.

“The separate meetings involving conciliation committee members, staff union representatives, KQ management as well as Cotu and FKE will take place at the ministry’s boardroom from 9am,” said the ministry’s Director of communications, Kaplich Barsito.

Kenya Airways has announced that operations have resumed and that there will be no interruptions.

In a press statement posted on its Twitter page, KQ said that 67 flights have taken off since 4pm and that scheduled evening flights will leave as planned.

Earlier, Kenya Airways had cancelled several fights scheduled for Sunday morning and delayed another after several outsourced crew failed to report to work.

In a statement issued Sunday morning, the national carrier said the staff, including cabin crew had stayed away from work since Friday due to issues with their employer.

“As per the safety regulations that the airline abides to, minimum number of cabin staff per aircraft type is require and on some of our flights we were unable to reach these levels,” the statement said.

The cancelled flights were KQ 600 to Mombasa, KQ 432 to Kilimanjaro, KQ 350 to Juba KQ 706 to Lusaka/Harare, KQ 740 to Maputo, KQ252 to Dzaoudzi and Moroni, while flight KQ 782 to Livingston/Cape Town was delayed.

The statement added that travellers in the affected flights would be re-booked on other flights or airlines.

The airline is grappling with a strike threat by members of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa), who have said they will down their tools on Tuesday despite a court order barring the industrial action.

Should the pilots go ahead with the strike, this could be a financially costly standoff for the troubled airline that is trying to fly out of turbulence.

However, despite the staff hitches, the airline said on its twitter page that it "operated 60 flights out 72 scheduled today".

Kenya Airways, already facing financial difficulties and a threatened pilots' strike, cancelled five flights on Sunday after outsourced cabin crew walked off the job.

While the stoppage only involved a small number of workers, it coincides with a deep malaise at the airline, which in July posted a net annual loss of 26.22 billion shillings ($250 million/230 million euros) -- the worst ever since its privatisation in 1995.

The losses follow a series of disastrous strategic decisions touching on maintenance costs, a hedge on fuel prices and rising dollar-denominated loans.

"Some of our outsourced staff including cabin crew have stayed away from work from Friday and we are working with their employer to resolve any issues they may have," Kenya Airways said in a statement on Twitter.

"As per the safety regulations that the airline abides to, minimum number of cabin staff per aircraft type is required and on some of our flights we are unable reach these levels," it said.

The dispute forced the carrier to scrap flights to the Kenyan city of Mombasa, Kilimanjaro (Tanzania), Juba (South Sudan), Maputo (Mozambique), and a further flight to Harare, Zimbabwe, via Lusaka, Zambia. No intercontinental flights were affected.

On Friday, some 700 outsourced workers employed by Career Directions Limited complained they had spent six years being retained on one-year contracts and demanded their wages be aligned with those of Kenya Airways' staff.

Kenya Airways faces a strike on Tuesday by disgruntled pilots who have for months been expressing a lack of confidence in the managerial team.

The pilots' union KALPA said last week they would stop work for a week if management did not step down.

The airline, which later this month will release half-year results, responded by obtaining a court order to bar industrial action.

On Thursday, Transport Minister James Macharia said a strike would amount to "national sabotage."

Loss-making national carrier Kenya Airways canceled several flights on Sunday after some crew members failed to turn up for work, the latest blow as the airline struggles to avert a strike called by its pilots.

"Some of our outsourced staff, including cabin crew, have stayed away from work from Friday and we are working with their employer to resolve any issues they may have," the airline said in a statement.

Flights to the Kenyan city of Mombasa, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Juba in South Sudan, Lusaka in Zambia, Harare in Zimbabwe and Maputo in Mozambique were canceled because there were not enough crew members to fly safely.

Kenya Airways later said that normal service had resumed but offered no further details.

Pilots union KALPA has called an indefinite strike, scheduled to start on Tuesday, to protest against the management of the airline, which is part owned by the government and Air France KLM.

The union said its members had lost confidence in the ability of the airline's chief executive and chairman to end years of losses. On Friday, a court ruled the strike was illegal and the government had said it would be "economic sabotage". On Thursday, the airline said it had halved its pre-tax loss to 5 billion shillings ($49.4 million) in the past six months thanks to a recovery in passenger numbers.
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