The Star (Nairobi)

25 September 2012

Kenya: Sacked KQ Staff Appear Before MPs Labour Team

Photo: Capital FM
Legislators Reject Investment Secretary's Evidence on Lay-Offs.

THE management of Kenya Airways was yesterday accused of favouring foreign employees over local ones in its employment policies.

A House committee was told that the recent retrenchment at the national carrier in which over 600 employees were declared redundant was done to promote the interests of foreign employees.

Officials of Aviation Allied Workers Union (AAWU) and some of the retrenched employees appeared before the Social Welfare and Labour committee and revealed that the airline had embarked on recruitment of foreigners just a day after they were sacked. It also emerged that the senior management team had received up to 24 per cent pay hike just a day after the retrenchment, the management was fond of communicating through SMS and that some of employees were sacked while out of station in foreign countries.

"KQ has recruited foreigners from Thailand, Cameroon, Rwanda, Uganda , Ghana and India in the last three weeks. They have promoted those who have been there. The question of retrenching us on the basis of wage bill does not arise," said Julius Chaacha Mwita, one of the retrenched employees.

They complained the management targeted old women, expectant employees and other employees who have back related ailments and that the sacking letters had been written in such a way as to suggest that they employees The session was so emotional that at one point, female employees who had been retrenched on the basis of their pregnancy broke down while giving their testimony to the committee.

The chairperson of AAWU Perpetua Mponjiwa told the committee that foreign workers earn up to three times more than Kenyan workers. "We don't know what criteria was used to declare these employees redundant but what we know the law was not followed. She gave the example of in flight crew where Kenyans are paid Sh35,000 before allowances while foreigners are paid a starting salary of Sh120,000 before allowances.

Mponjiwa told the committee that the relationship between the Union and the management was guided by the Collective Bargaining Agreement CBA covering the period between 2010 and 2012. "There was consultation and if the management was genuine retrenchment should have been carried across the board," she said.

She said there was no retrenchment among senior managers or pilots who number 1000 but account for up to 76 per cent of the Airline's wage bill. She said KQ's unionisable employees number 3800 whose total cost to the wage bill is a 24 per cent. "The procedure was shocking She said the union reads mischief in the retrenchment because the 3800 KQ unionisable members accounts for 24 per cent of the wage bill.

She said the two parties had signed a recognition agreement in 2006 and the management had consented to proviso that required consultation before declaration of redundancy.

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