Court gives striking pilots, Kenya Airways hours to resolve stalemate

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 8 Nov, 2022 12:27 | 3 mins read
Pilots union officials summoned to court for contempt
KALPA officials speaking to journalists in Nairobi. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Employment and Labour Relations Court sitting in Nairobi on Tuesday, November 8, ordered Kenya Airways and its pilots' union officials to negotiate and file an agreement on the return to work formula at 2:00 pm.

Justice Anna Mwaure issued the directive after 11 officials of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) appeared in court after being summoned to show cause why they should not be punished for defying an order suspending the strike that entered its fourth day today.

While urging the two parties to negotiate, the judge observed that convicting and sending the pilots to jail is not a solution, although she urged them to obey the court order in the meantime.

"I urged the lawyers of KQ and KAPLA to talk and see if they can have a partial agreement for the time being," Justice Mwaure said.

Earlier in the day, another court withdrew the orders that had halted the industrial action as they expired today. This followed a request by Kenya airways to have the matter closed saying it was overtaken by events.

In the current matter, Kenya airways accused the eleven officials of going on with the strike despite the court order and urged the court to punish them

KQ, through lawyer John Ohaga, told the court that the pilots were yet to resume work contrary to the court order.

"The applications before court are replete with evidence of attempts made by COTU, Transport CS and Labour CS to mediate the parties. They have been frustrated in trying to resolve the dispute and the doors are not closed because there is a dispute that has to be resolved," Ohaga said.

On the proposal by the union for the dispute to be referred for mediation Ohaga said: " a party can not be in breach of a court order and at the same time seek to have the Alternative Dispute Resolution."

"We can not go to mediation in the present status of affairs," Ohaga said while insisting on compliance with the court orders dated October 31.

On their part, KAPLA officials, through lawyers Kimani Kiarie and Levie Kariuki, asked the court to grant them seven days to respond to the court case.

"Every member cited for contempt has a right to seek representation. Holding them in contempt is tantamount to denial to the right of hearing. The officials need sufficient time to appoint advocates of their choice in the contempt proceedings," lawyer Kariuki stated.

KAPLA said that since the strike commenced on Saturday many meetings have been held between the parties, the last being last night chaired by the commissioner of labour in the Ministry of Labour.

Lawyer Kiarie informed the court that so far 70 per cent of the issues have been covered and the contempt orders at the middle of the negotiations.

Summoned officials include KALPA Chairperson Capt. Timothy Njoroge, his deputy Capt. David Magwa, Capt. Mureithi Nyagah, KALPA’s General Secretary & CEO, Capt. Dzochera Warraakah, the Asstistant General Secretary and Capt. Wilson Mathu, the Assistant Treasurer.

Others are Executive Council Members Capt. Murithi Ireri, Capt. Mathew Karimi, First Officer Joseph Migwi, First officer Evelyne Nzongi, First officer Daniel Geita and the secretary, Christine Kariuki.

The union accuses KQ management led by CEO Allan Kilavuka of unilaterally withdrawing the Staff Provident Fund.

The union also accuses the national carrier of harassing its officials.

Pilots issue ultimatum

The pilots on Saturday said that they would only return to work if their issues are addressed.

"We're ready to resume work even today, so long as our grievances are addressed," Nyagah stated.

The pilots demanded that the management reinstates the contribution of the pension fund that was halted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, they also said they want the airline's board and executives removed for 'poor governance' highlighting that their attempts to have a discussion with the management of their airline bore no fruit.

"We hope the industrial action would prompt KQ's management to call us to the negotiating table for a sober discussion. We sympathise with the passengers who have been affected by the strike," Nyagah added.

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