Kenya transport minister threatens striking pilots with disciplinary action

Published: 08:32 PM, 6 Nov, 2022
Kenya transport minister threatens striking pilots with disciplinary action
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Kenya's Transport Minister Kipchumba Murkomen threatened Kenya Airways pilots with disciplinary action unless they ended their strike, which on Sunday forced fresh flight cancellations for a second day running, stranding thousands of passengers.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) launched the strike at 06:00 am (0300 GMT) on Saturday, defying a court order against industrial action and deepening the woes of the troubled national carrier.

"Considering the defiance of KALPA and their total disregard for the existing court order – which is at the heart of the rule of law - the Ministry of Labour now has to activate the procedures governing industrial relations," Murkomen said in a statement.

"I urge the pilots to be mindful of the consequences of defying a court order and to urgently return to work because impunity cannot be an option," he added.

The airline, part owned by the government and Air France-KLM, is one of the biggest in Africa, connecting multiple countries to Europe and Asia, but it is facing turbulent times, including years of losses.

On Saturday, the airline's managing director and CEO, Allan Kilavuka, urged the protesting pilots, who make up 10 percent of the workforce, to return to work by 10:30 am on Sunday or face "immediate disciplinary action".

But KALPA said on Sunday its members would remain on strike "until their voice is heard".

"The public should expect major flight disruptions to continue," it said on Twitter, blaming the airline's management for failing to resolve the stalemate.

The strike has thrown over 9,000 passengers' plans into disarray, according to the airline, with travellers turning up to the Nairobi airport on Saturday and Sunday, only to find out that their flights were cancelled.

KALPA has given no indication of how long the strike will last, and has demanded the reinstatement of contributions to a provident fund and payment of all salaries stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the airline won a court injunction stopping the strike, but an official at KALPA, which has 400 members, told AFP the pilots "were acting within the provisions of the law" and that they were yet to be served with a court order.

The carrier has warned the strike would jeopardise its recovery, estimating losses at $2.5 million per day if the pilots went ahead with their plans.

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