Kenya Airways has secured a court order to prevent a two-week strike planned by pilots.
The industrial action was due to begin on November 2, 2022 following a strike notice issued in October by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA). The dispute centers on allegations that Kenya’s flag carrier failed to abide by mutual agreements and suspended contributions to a provident fund in 2020.
According to KALPA, the union has asked management at the state-owned airline to address the issue on a number of occasions. Reports also suggest that the pilots’ union has accused Kenya Airways’ executives of mismanagement and have called for a root and branch restructuring of the airline’s board, including the resignation of chairman Michael Joseph.
“We were not able to strike an agreement,” the airline’s chief executive officer Allan Kilavuka said at a briefing on Tuesday, according to a Bloomberg report. “We are still open and willing to have discussions regarding the grievances they have raised.”
Kilavuka had previously warned pilots would face consequences if they carried out their plans for the 14-day strike.
Calls for resignation
Meanwhile, in a letter to staff earlier this week, Joseph confirmed that KALPA had “called for Allan and myself to resign and the board to step down but there is no clear justification for this other than a general statement about management and poor decisions without any details”.
According to Bloomberg, the pilots’ association’s secretary-general Murithi Nyagah said the union wasn’t aware of the court order stopping their action.
Pilot strikes can severely disrupt flights and affect an airline’s perceived stability. At present, Kenya Airways has more than 250,000 passengers a month. Kilavuka says that a strike would affect around 60 to 70 flights a day and threaten daily revenue of around 300 million shillings ($2.5 million).
Bloomberg also reports that Kenya will take over the payment of a $525 million US Export-Import Bank loan it guaranteed for Kenya Airways after the carrier failed to meet its repayment obligations.
In 2017, the East African country guaranteed part of the $841.6 million 10-year facility the airline took to purchase seven aircraft and one engine. Kenya Airways halted payments as it ran into financial difficulties exacerbated by the pandemic, which resulted in the grounding of most global air travel.
Kenya holds a 48.9% stake in Kenya Airways. The company board says that the African carrier should break even by 2024.