Kenya Airways (KQ) pilots will on Wednesday decide whether to call for industrial action against their employer after a seven-day notice to stop hiring pilots on contract for the Boeing 737 lapses.
Last Thursday, Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa) General Secretary Murithi Nyaga wrote to the airline seeking to stop the recruitment of 20 contract pilots, terming the move illegal.
Last week, KQ outgoing CEO Sebastian Mikosz, in a memo to staff, announced the recruitment of 20 contract pilots for its Boeing 737 fleet, setting the airline on a collision course with Kalpa, which, the airline says, had been standing in the way of the overdue enlistment.
“We hereby demand an immediate freeze on the hiring of the said contract pilots. In addition, we expect an official response of this intent within seven days of this communication, failing which the association will take any action it deems fit,” Capt Nyaga said in his letter to Kenya Airways Chief Human Resources Officer Evelyn Munyoki.
The pilots accuse the airline of willful non-compliance with the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), which they say has become a habit, and reflects the management’s attitude towards agreements.
“The association has taken note of the callous nature of the intent to forcefully recruit 20 contract pilots on the B737. Kindly take note that the management action is in breach of an existing memorandum of agreement on Kenyanisation and Clause 37 of the collective bargaining agreement,” Capt Nyaga said.
The airline and its pilots have been at loggerheads since it emerged that it spends close to Sh5 billion annually on the cost of cancelled flights, Kalpa saying the members are not to blame.
According to the memo, the pilots will be recruited on two-year contracts to enable the airline to run its operations more efficiently and plan for network growth.
“The additional capacity will also help us plan for annual leave. As we embark on the recruitment, we are complying with the CBA provisions to continue employing Kenya pilots directly as First Officers. We have communicated our intent to the Pilots Association – KALPA,” Mr Mikosz said.
The airline argued that the contracts will result in great benefits.
“The recruitment of the 20 B737 contract pilots will allow pilots to take up the much-needed leave and accelerate the movement of 10 pilots to the B787 to cover that fleet requirements and five projected retirements in the year 2020,” KQ said.
The airline's director of operations Paul Njoroge wrote to Capt Nyagah informing Kalpa of the decision to override parts of the restrictive CBA.
It also emerged that KQ had been in discussions South African Airways last year, as it sought to source pilots form the Johannesburg headquartered airline to operate as seconded pilots for its 737 fleet, a move it says Kalpa blocked.