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Defiant KQ pilots vow strike still on despite court order

National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has obtained court orders outlawing Tuesday’s planned pilots’ strike even as the aviators maintained that the industrial action is on.

Employment and Labour Court Judge Nduma Nderi on Friday granted orders stopping the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (Kalpa), from proceeding with the strike to push for the resignation of the KQ’s chief executive and chairman.

Captain Paul Gichinga, Kalpa’s secretary-general, however, insisted that the strike is on even as he invited the tough-talking Transport secretary James Macharia and KQ for discussions.

“Nothing has changed for now. The strike is still on. We are holding a special meeting with our members on Monday to deliberate on the latest developments,” Mr Gichinga said in a telephone interview with the Daily Nation.

The Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu), made up of about 2,500 workers, however, said that it its members will not participate in the strike and their grievances with KQ’s management “are being addressed in an amicable manner.”

Kalpa wants KQ’s CEO Mbuvi Ngunze and chairman Ambassador Dennis Awori to resign, accusing them of mismanaging the airline.

Captain Gichinga said the “widely anticipated changes at KQ”, following a previous strike in April had not happened, even as he urged his members to “remain calm and firm.”

While making a contempt of court application on Friday, KQ’s lawyer Geoffrey Obura argued that by calling for a strike, Kalpa violated a consent entered in court on June 2 where it undertook not to take any industrial action.

STRIKE NOTICE

The publicly-listed carrier now wants Mr Gichinga, Njoroge Murimi (Kalpa’s chairman), and Timothy Njoroge (the vice chairman) jailed for six months.

“The strike notice and the reasons given are both in contempt of the court order. The resignation of Ambassador Awori and Mr Ngunze, as demanded by Kalpa are not acts within the control of the airline,” said Mr Obura.

But even as KQ registered momentary success in court, 236 subcontracted and non-unionised employees participated in a protest demanding better employment conditions.

The staffers, who include ground and cabin crew, have are hired through a firm called Career Directions. They want equal remuneration, medical benefits and allowances as staff employed directly by the airline in similar positions and have vowed not to resume duty unless they are promoted to permanent and pensionable terms.

David Chege, Career Directions’ general manager said the move was a “plan to sabotage the smooth running of our client’s operations”, saying the staffers “will be met with the necessary action and in line with the Kenyan labour laws.”

Another setback for the airline came from the National Assembly Leader of majority Aden Duale who said that Parliament will not approve any bailout until Mr Ngunze and Mr Awori resign.

He added that the House will compel Mr Macharia to commence the renegotiation of the joint venture between KQ and Dutch carrier KLM.

KQ, which is technically insolvent, reported a record loss of Sh26.2 billion for the year to March. The company’s ongoing recovery plan requires an injection of about Sh60 billion in both equity and debt.