Aviation: Court halts East African carrier, Kenya Airways from sacking staff

Kenya QK shares Bangkok

East African carrier, Kenya Airways may have to look for better ways to keep the airline’s continued loses in check as a High Court judge has stopped it from laying off workers under a restructuring plan.

According to nation.co.ke, the High Court has suspended plans by Kenya Airways to lay off some of its staff and send others on unpaid leave ahead of resumption of domestic flights, a move that could force the struggling airline to dig deeper into its pockets to implement its recovery plan.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa also suspended Kenya Airways’ plan to implement a 30 per cent pay cut for staffers who will be on duty when the national carrier resumes operations.

The carrier is expected to resume operation of local flights on July 15 and intends to cut costs by retaining only staffers essential to keeping KQ planes in the air.

As part of its recovery plan, KQ planned to send workers not essential to flight operations on unpaid leave, while effecting pay cuts for those who will be on duty.

The cost cutting plan was to take effect between July and September, subject to review.

The airline, in a communication to staff, stated that workers on unpaid leave will not be owed anything, and will not accrue leave days.

Save for medical insurance, staffers on unpaid leave were also to have their benefits suspended until they are called back to work.
The court orders were issued following two separate cases filed by the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU), which argue that the national carrier is violating a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

The lobby argues that an agreement it had with Kenya Airways provided that pay cuts and unpaid leave would only apply until the national carrier resumes operations.

KAWU says that KQ has not consulted it on extending the agreement to cover the coming months when the airline shall operate local and selected international flights.

The lobby has also protested KQ’s communication to staff, on grounds that workers who will not agree to the new terms on pay cuts and unpaid leave will be considered to have willingly resigned.

“Pending the hearing and determination of the application, the honourable court do issue an order of stay or temporary injunction to restrain operation or implementation of the Kenya Airways managing director’s general notice on July 3, 2020 and consequential directives flowing there from…,” the first order by Justice Wasilwa issued on Thursday reads.

An order of stay or temporary injunction restraining Kenya Airways from implementing the managing director and CEO general written communication to all employees on phased rationalisation of its employees as well as unpaid leave policy and the letter by the chief human resource officer to KAWU notifying it of non-renewal of in-sourced staff contracts,” the second order by Justice Wasilwa reads.

Kenya Airways is yet to respond to either of the cases.
But the court orders could now force KQ to cater for its usual wage bill until Justice Wasilwa gives a final determination on the issues raised in court.

KAWU insists that its 2014 CBA with Kenya Airways, and which is still in force, provides that both parties have to sign a memorandum of agreement before altering employment terms for affected workers.

The lobby adds that Kenya Airways is yet to approach it or its members to discuss plans to slash their pay or send some on unpaid leave.

Court papers indicate that KAWU wants the planned KQ pay cuts to be repaid in future.

According to atqnews.com, 22 pilots have already been served with redundancy letters. 160 more are on the way out with at least 400 cabin crew also on the exit in a decision that has left the airline’s management at crossroads with its workers, the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) and the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU).

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