Kenyan Airline Pilots Association Opposes Staff Layoffs at KQ

Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) wants ongoing staff layoffs, which include sacking of pilots by Kenya Airways (KQ) stopped, terming the exercise illegal.

The carrier has so far sent home 22 pilots and a few more will be heading for the doors soon in a rationalisation plan aimed at limiting losses stemming from Covid-19 and associated movement restrictions.

But the union says inasmuch as the airline wants to send home pilots to stay afloat, the exercise is in breach of mutual agreements signed in January.

"Kalpa notes that you have gone ahead to terminate employment of 22 pilots without any prior reference nor consultation.

"Take note that your action to terminate the contracts of these pilots is in breach of a memorandum of agreement that was enforced by both parties on January 24, 2020," said Kalpa secretary-general Murithi Nyagah in a letter to Kenya Airways chief Executive Allan Kilavuka on Monday.

DIRECT ENTRY CAPTAINS

KQ in January said it would hire 30 direct entry captains both local and foreign to reduce an acute shortage of pilots to handle its large fleet of Embraer 190 aircraft.

This is after Kalpa rejected the hiring of at least 20 foreign pilots for Kenya Airways' Boeing 737 planes.

An agreement signed between KQ and Kalpa was expected to help the airline lower its shortage of 53 pilots for its current fleet of aircraft. The shortage has in the past affected the airline's revenue and expansion plans.

The 30 recruits were to comprise Kenyans on permanent terms and expatriates on two-year deals while contract-term pilots were expected on board by June 30.

CUT FREQUENCIES

But KQ has changed tune, with Chief Executive Allan Kilavuka saying it will cut frequencies, abandon some of the routes and send home workers including pilots once it resumes operations. The carrier was struggling long before the Covid-19 outbreak, posting losses of almost Sh13 billion in 2019.

Kalpa has however opposed the move, saying pilots will not go on unpaid leave as demanded by KQ.

The union says the fliers will only go on leave if the measure will secure jobs at KQ and cushion the airline from further effects of the pandemic.

"We know too well that your intention for unpaid leave is to direct revenues realised to furnish the retrenchment exercise and doing so is highly immoral and unprofessional," said Mr Nyagah.

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