Kenya Airways CEO says airline recruiting pilots as strike bites

PUBLISHED: Mon, 07 Nov 2022 16:29:28 GMT
George Obulutsa and Duncan Miriri
Kenya Airways planes are seen through a window as the Jomo Kenyatta international airport reopens after flights were suspended following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Nairobi, Kenya August 1, 2020. REUTERS/Njeri Mwangi/File Photo

NAIROBI, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Kenya Airways KQNA.NR is recruiting new pilots and has started disciplinary action against its pilots who are out on strike, its CEO said on Monday.

The airline had warned its striking pilots they could be dismissed if they do not return to work immediately as industrial action over pay that began on Saturday has led to the cancellation of dozens of flights and left thousands of passengers stranded.

As the strike entered a third day, CEO Allan Kilavuka said that as of Monday afternoon, 23 pilots had shown up for work and the airline had restored a fifth of its daily network operations.

The pilots are striking over a dispute on pensions contributions and settlement of deferred pay, and the airline, one of Africa’s biggest, has said the industrial action was costing it at least 300 million shillings ($2.5 million) a day.

Kilavuka said the airline would not hold talks until pilots returned to work.

“We have said before that we are ready to talk. Now time has changed. We want them to first go back to work with immediate effect before we can have any discussions whatsoever,” he said.

“In any case … we have already started disciplinary action and we have already started recruiting new pilots. So those who are still interested in working with Kenya Airways should very quickly report back to work with immediate effect.”

Murithi Nyagah, the general secretary of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA), which represents about 400 pilots, said the striking pilots would go back to work when their demands were met.

Their union said in a statement that it had sent a revised proposal to Kenya Airways on Monday afternoon and was awaiting a response from the airline’s management.

“The plight of our colleagues and passengers is not lost on us … we remain committed to finding an amicable solution,” Nyagah said.

($1 = 121.5500 Kenyan shillings)

(Reporting by George Obulutsa and Duncan Miriri; Writing by Bhargav Acharya and James Macharia Chege; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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