Kenya: COTU Wants Murkomen Out of KQ Strike Talks, Roots for Conciliatory Team

Nairobi — The Central Organization of Trade Union (COTU) has called on the government to form a conciliatory team to resolve a pilots’ strike at the Kenya Airways which entered its third day on Monday.

Speaking during a press conference, COTU Deputy Secretary General Benson Okwaro said constructive dialogue must be given a chance to resolve the crisis.

“We are in a serious economic crisis and KQ is one of the companies that can help sustain our economy and we cannot therefore sit and remain in our offices. We are calling on all stakeholders and especially the government to appoint a conciliatory team to make sure that they get pilots back to work,” Okwaro said.

He further faulted the government and more specifically the Ministry of Labor saying it has failed to dialogue with both the Kenya Airways and the Kenya Airlines Association of Pilots to help them come up with a Return-to-Work Formula.

“If we don’t give dialogue a chance, it will not be possible to solve the problem we have today. The government of Kenya has failed to initiate a proper dialogue with both parties taking in mind that the ministry that is being involved does not have the much-needed understanding of our industrial relations and how industrial disputes are solved,” he said.

The industrial action kicked off on Saturday affecting thousands of passengers whose flights were either cancelled or postponed.

The pilots accused the airline of pilot victimization and harassment as well as unilateral withdrawal of the staff provident fund, non-adherence to Kenya Civil Aviation Regulations, and leadership and governance challenges.

On Sunday KQ stated that it may be unable to meet its salary obligations in November if the pilots’ strike persists.

KQ CEO Allan Kilavuka called on the pilots to “let common sense prevail” and call off their strike terming the paralysis at the airline as a doubled-edged sword affecting both the national carrier and the pilots.

Kilavuka said the striking workers may be forced to go without salary as the company is bleeding Sh300 million daily from the strike

“All I know is that pilots are KQ employees before they are members of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA). We are losing Sh300million every day, if this continues, we may not be able to pay salaries this month,” said Kilavuka

As part of negotiations to end the strike, the KQ boss also demanded that KALPA ensures that its staffers are back to work arguing that the ongoing industrial action is illegal and in contravention of a court order.

The airline is also demanding that the Union limits its negotiation to the Collecting Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between them.

The government through, Cabinet Secretary for Transport Kipchumba Murkomen threatened to take action against the pilots.

“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. 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,” Murkomen, who has held several unfruitful talks with unions officials on the matter, stated.

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