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KQ Faces Fresh Turbulence As High Court Thwarts Recovery Plans

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Kenya Airways might have to restrategize and come up with an alternative recovery plan following the High Court’s suspension of its decision to lay off staff and send others on unpaid leave.

Justice Hellen Wasilwa also suspended the Carrier’s intended pay cuts on staff who will be on duty once operations resume.

In President Uhuru’s July 6th state address, he announced that Kenya Airways would resume domestic flights on July 15 and International flights on August 1.

KQ has been gearing up to resume and had come up with a recovery plan that was expected to cut costs and cushion the airline against the economic difficulties brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last week, Kenya Airways announced that it would retain staff whose services were essential once they resume, while the rest would be sent on unpaid leave. The Carrier also intended to effect pay cuts for staff on duty and had already started laying off a number of staff according to its recovery plan.

The cost cutting plan was to take effect between July and September, subject to a review.

In communication to staff, Kenya Airways stated that workers sent on unpaid leave will not be owed anything and would not accrue leave days. They were also to have their benefits suspended, with the exception of medical insurance, until they resumed work.

The court orders were issued following two separate cases that had been filed by the Kenya Aviation Worker’s Union, which challenged KQ saying it was violating a Collective Bargaining Agreement.

The union stated that in an earlier agreement with Kenya Airways, pay cuts and unpaid leave would only apply until operations resumed.

According to KAWU, KQ has not consulted the union on an extension period to cover the gradual resumption of selected domestic and international flights.

The lobby has also protested KQ’s communication to the staff, who were told that if they do not agree to unpaid leave or the pay cuts, then they will have resigned willingly.

“Pending the hearing and determination of the application, the honourable court do issue an order of stay or temporary injunction to restrain operation or implementation of the Kenya Airways managing director’s general notice on July 3, 2020 and consequential directives flowing there from…,” the first order by Justice Wasilwa reads.

“An order of stay or temporary injunction restraining Kenya Airways from implementing the managing director and CEO general written communication to all employees on phased rationalisation of its employees as well as unpaid leave policy and the letter by the chief human resource officer to KAWU notifying it of non-renewal of in-sourced staff contracts,” the second order by Justice Wasilwa reads.

Kenya Airways has not responded to either of the cases.

The court orders now means KQ may have to cater for its usual wage bill until Justice Wasilwa gives a final determination on the issues raised in court.

Court papers indicate that KAWU wants the planned KQ pay cuts to be repaid in future.

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Written by Vanessa Murrey

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