Case challenging KQ lay-off plans for employees to be settled out of court

Case challenging KQ lay-off plans for employees to be settled out of court

A case filed by the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) to challenge the KQ lay-off plans for its employees will be settled out of court.

Lady Justice Hellen Wasilwa said the two parties need to go back to the conciliation process due to the impact of COVID-19 on both of them.

“Given the nature of the petition and the need to balance between industry in these difficult times due to the negative impact on the Respondent by Covid 19 and the need to keep the Respondent afloat in the circumstances in order to save massive job losses, I find that the best remedy in the circumstances is to have the parties go back to the conciliation process in order to reach the best decision,” the ruling reads.

The two parties are to submit to a conciliation process within the next 30 days and resolve the issues.

According to the judge, there was a breach of the law and constitution in the failure by the respondent to consult the petitioner before implementing certain directives and decisions.

“Though the impact of COVID-19 on the airline industry has been grave, it does not mean there will be derogation from the principle of negotiations and consultations between union and management before implementing certain decisions which can have far reaching consequences on the employer and the employees,” she said.

The Judge added that KQ was in breach of fair labour practices as envisaged under Article 41(1) and (2) of the Constitution and the decisions made indeed impact on remuneration of the union members and their livelihood and it should therefore be handled with caution.

At least 700 employees are set to lose their jobs if the national carrier embarks on a massive layoff to reduce its operational costs.

To mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the airline began suspension of route network including flights to eight major African capitals.

In a redundancy notice to its workers, the airline painted a grim picture of the aviation industry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter dated August 7 said travel restrictions placed by various governments to stem the spread of the virus has resulted in a drop in passenger revenues by 55% while traffic is projected to have fallen by 48%.

However the workers union insists the the planned lay-offs are unfair and ill-intended.

“We have negotiated pay-cuts right from April. We have signed an MoU with KQ but they have not talked to us about the intention and ultimate decision to declare redundancies,” said Moss Ndiema, KAWU secretary-general.