28 September 2012

Kenya: KQ's Sackings Dominate Annual General Meeting

KENYA Airways management was yesterday taken to task by shareholders over recent retrenchment of 576 employees . Shareholders who attended the airline's 36th annual general meeting at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre were greeted by a group of demonstrating former employeees outside the venue. KQ sacked the staff on September 5.

The AGM's, question time was dominated by issues concerning the lay offs with shareholders keen to know why the airline was sacking staff amid expansion. Some sought clarification on whether the airline had resorted to hiring foreigners to take over the jobs left vacant by the retrenched staff as claimed by the Aviation and Allied Workers' Union while others wanted to know the criteria the airline used to pick staff for retrenchment.

"The feeling out there is that you picked on pregnant women and those with back problems," said one shareholder. In defense of the management's retrenchment decision, KQ boss Titus Naikuni reiterated that the company was forced to cut staff due to increasing operation costs like fuel and wages expenses. "We did not pick on the young or the old. We did not use age as the criteria, we used performance, productivity and assessments on skills that are fit for the organization of the future," KQ human resources director Alban Mwendar.

The officials of the airline however could not exhaustively answer all the questions posed to them over the issue as the matter is still in court. Shareholder Alloys Chami sought to know how the numerous court cases have affected expenses of the airline since it faces several employee related cases in court aside from the one arising from the recent layoffs.

"KQ is just known for retrenchment out there," complained another shareholder. On his part, Naikuni explained that majority of the foreigners working for KQ are based in their home countries where the airline has representative offices. Other concerns raised during the meeting were complaints over dividends which shareholders said were low and the acquisition of new planes. KQ gave a dividend of Sh0.25 per share for the year ended March 2012.

A shareholder sought to know why KQ was ordering Embraers for its African routes which were the cash cow for the airline; and not bigger aircrafts to reap better from the huge market. Naikuni explained that the airline would use the Embraers for some of the new routes set to be opened and will gradually increase capacity as the business volumes grow.

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