Nairobi – A planned strike by pilots at Kenya Airways would jeopardise the airline’s recovery from the pandemic and would be unjustified, the company’s board said on Wednesday.
Kalpa, a union that represents more than 400 pilots at the carrier, issued a notice that was set to trigger a strike at midnight on Wednesday over a dispute involving pensions, accrued back salaries and other complaints.
“None of the grievances advanced by Kalpa merits an industrial strike,” the board said in a statement, adding all pay deals with unions must reflect the company’s effort to return to profit.
“It (a strike) will delay and disrupt the financial recovery,” the board added.
In a separate statement, Kenya Airways put estimated losses if the strike goes ahead at 300 million shillings (R45 512 998) per day.
Kalpa, which has been ordered by a court not to proceed with the strike, declined to comment.
Muriithi Nyaga, its general secretary, told Reuters the union would issue a statement when it was ready to.
If the strike goes ahead, it will paralyse travel in one of Africa’s key aviation hubs, which serves business and leisure travellers. Kenya Airways ferried an average of 8 000 passengers every day in the first half of this year.
The union is demanding the airline restarts contributions to its staff pension fund, stopped during the pandemic, and the payment of all back salaries that were accrued at the time.
Like other airlines, Kenya Airways grounded its fleet and deferred pay for workers when the pandemic took hold.
The board said it had been making progress, with all workers now getting full pay every month and some extra cash towards gradually settling the deferred pay.
Nyaga did not comment on that or the court injunction against the planned strike. The union is also demanding the sacking of the airline’s CEO Allan Kilavuka.
The board said it had full confidence in Kilavuka.
The financial turmoil at Kenya Airways preceded the pandemic. The airline sank into heavy losses after it took on huge debts to purchase new aircraft, at a time when its passenger business slumped mainly due to frequent militant attacks in Kenya.
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