Sacked engineers threaten Kenya Airways with court action

Thursday November 30 2017

Kenya Airways engineers singing in unity after

Kenya Airways engineers singing in unity after they were dismissed from work because of holding a go slow demanding that Kenya Airways management meets their obligation at Seasons hotel, Nairobi on November 30, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION 

By MUGAMBI MUTEGI
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About 161 technical workers fired by Kenya Airways as punishment for going on strike to demand higher salaries have now threatened to go to court.

The employees, who rank between technical assistants and senior engineers, were on Wednesday issued with termination letters after they staged a lengthy sit-in at KQ’s hangar at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

The technicians want salaries adjusted upwards by up to three and a half times to match wages paid by Middle East carriers, a demand KQ’s management has ruled out arguing that it already increased their pay in April.

The airline has now moved to dismiss the workers saying they are on strike illegally, setting the stage for a heated court battle between KQ and its disgruntled staff.

“We have already engaged Anne Babu & Co to represent us. The law firm has already written to the KQ chief executive to protest how we have been treated,” Joseph Oyuga, a senior engineer, said at a press conference Thursday.

“We expect to file a case at the Industrial Court by the end of the week and start the legal process. We have tried to engage them, but they decided not to engage us. We’re not negotiating anymore. We shall be proven right in a court of law.”

The same employees went on strike in December last year demanding higher pay, better working conditions and management changes, briefly paralysing KQ’s operations.

Following an attrition of engineers and technicians to Middle East carriers (80 in the year to February), KQ agreed to increase their pay to stop the exodus of its key staff.

'Greed'

Kenya Airways, which has just completed a balance sheet restructuring aimed at saving the business, maintains that it has already effected this pay increment in April and that the latest demand is borne of greed.

“Management has been consistently communicating, in good faith, the progress of addressing issues raised by the technical department. Key to this has been remuneration, and this was addressed earlier in the year,” Sebastian Mikosz, KQ’s chief executive, said in a statement.

“The illegal strike at Kenya Airways hangars by about 140 engineers and technicians is in bad faith and unacceptable. The management will not be held at ransom by these engineers and technicians,” he said Wednesday.

The sacked employees have however pushed back on this claim, arguing that the April increment was a salary harmonisation exercise that benefited about a dozen staff.

Further, they claim that this harmonisation was only phase one of the bid to improve their wages and that the actual increment never materialised as had been allegedly promised.

Cash crunch

KQ, which is financially constrained, now says a technical assistant who saw their monthly salary adjusted from Ksh120,000 ($1,165) to Ksh200,000 ($1,942) in the review is now demanding Ksh340,000 ($3,301).

Production and duty control engineers are also now allegedly picketing for their monthly wages to increase from the new Ksh340,000 ($3,301) amount to Ksh1.2 million ($11,652) a month.

Mr Mikosz and KQ chairman Michael Joseph have both stated that the national carrier will not honour this significant demand, setting the stage for a bruising court battle.

“These workers don’t have genuine grievances. They are participating in an illegal industrial action. Honestly, they are being greedy by asking for more money,” Mr Joseph told the Business Daily on Tuesday.

“We shall stand firm on this; we are not paying more than we already have.”

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