Transport secretary James Macharia has declared the planned strike by Kenya Airways’ pilots illegal, warning that participating in the industrial action at a time the airline is trying to recover amounts to economic sabotage.
Mr Macharia’s response came five days before the strike commencement date and on the day the national carrier announced that its half-year loss had dropped by Sh7 billion.
The minister said in a statement sent to newsrooms that the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) overstepped its mandate in calling for the October 18 strike and demanding the exit of the airline’s chief executive and chairman.
Mr Macharia described the impending industrial action as unjustified given KQ’s improving financial position, adding that the Kalpa leadership’s demands appear to be solely driven by “personal gain” without giving dialogue a chance.
“Only the board and shareholders can determine the exit of the chief executive or board chairman. Kalpa should therefore not force themselves in matters oversight to KQ,” he said.
Air France-KLM group and the Treasury are Kenya Airways’ two largest shareholders with 26.7 per cent and 29.8 per cent stake respectively.
Mr Macharia’s issued the statement after a Cabinet meeting that also resolved that public officials will henceforth use KQ while travelling outside on official duty.
The statement came hours after KQ announced that it was Sh5 billion in the red in the first six months of its financial year ended September, an improvement from the massive Sh11.95 billion loss it posted during a similar period last year.
That outcome came on the back of a Sh2 billion improvement in the carrier’s operating position to close at a loss of Sh176 million, helped by an 89,000 increase in passenger numbers to 2.23 million.
The airline was to officially release the half-year results on October 27, but the looming industrial action forced its hand, prompting its publication a fortnight early.
Mr Macharia asked the pilots to retract their strike threat, noting that “government will use all levers available under the law to take action against those who defy the directive.”
“Kalpa leadership and its membership should take note that taking part in any strike at KQ during this delicate stage of its recovery is tantamount to economic and national sabotage,” he said.
“The government, along with other shareholders, is fully appraised of the KQ turnaround strategy and is confident that the company is on the path to recovery.”
KQ pilots accuse chief executive Mbuvi Ngunze and its chairman, Dennis Awori, of mismanaging the public-listed firm, leaving it desperate for a bailout of approximately Sh60 billion to stay afloat.
Credit: Business Daily