KQ pilots call off planned strike as board insists on contract hires

Kenya Airways pilots have shelved their planned strike which was set for this Friday even as the airline’s board maintains on the need for contractual pilot hires.

Insiders close to the Kenya Airline Pilots Association’s (KALPA) afternoon-long closed-door meeting on Tuesday attributed the cancellation of the strike to the creation of further room for stakeholder engagement even as KALPA officials held no official position.

“We will come up with an official position and share. I cannot disclose more at this time, KALPA Secretary General Murithi Nyagah told Citizen Digital in a phone interview.

At the center of the pilots discretion has been the KQ’s board planned hiring of 20-contract pilots to ease the stretch on current staff numbers.

In a letter seen by Citizen Digital, the pilots had given a seven day ultimatum to September 19 while sighting the infringement of the union’s Collective Bargain Agreement on the hiring of local pilots.

Even so, Kenya Airways Chief Executive Officer Sebastian Mikosz has insisted on the hiring of local talent while pointing a finger of blame at KALPA’s perceived stranglehold on key recruitment.

“We are hiring 20 local pilots on the Embraer even if 100 pilots is what we require on a minimum. The pilots have been resisting hires on other fleets. This will prevent growth for the airline as most of our potential is in middle fleets,” he said.

“I don’t think they are any emotions about an industrial strike. We hire on contract as per the moderation of the CBA with the recruited staff standing in for pilots in training.”

The divergence in sentiments between KQ’s board and that of its pilot’s union digs further into a growing rift which has seen the pair counter blame each other over the continued carrier’s financial plight.

While KALPA has clapped back on the board’s accusation of culpability in the contribution of massive delayed to taint it as a mere excuse, KQ Chairman Michael Joseph has lashed out at the pilots for the continued tying up of current managers with the airline ailments.

“Put up a candidate for the CEO position. I would be very welcome to seeing a CEO from the Kenyan pilots,” he said.

Costs to delayed flights which have grown sharply in 2019 have been approximated at Ksh.5 billion annually in a factor further exacerbating the carriers poor run of results.

In August, Kenya Airways posted a more than double increase in losses in the first six months of the year to Ksh.8.6 billion as rising operational and impairment costs wiped out marginal growth in operating revenues.

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