National carrier Kenya Airways (KQ) has halted a downsizing exercise that was set to affect hundreds of staffers.
This is after the staffers through the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) obtained orders from the Employee and Labour Relations Court temporarily stopping the exercise until a petition challenging the mass layoffs is heard and determined.
Reports indicate that the airline had plans to send home 182 pilots and more than 400 cabin crew members over dwindling fortunes due to effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector.
In a memo to the staffers on Wednesday, KQ CEO Allan Kivuka, however, warned that the orders have a negative impact on the employees besides the case threatening the “achievement of both the short-term viability and long-term strategic success of this Airline.”
Kivuka detailed that with the rightsizing exercise shelved, the airline is not in a position to pay KQ employees full salaries as ordered by the court due to reduced revenues in the aviation sector at the moment.
“The Order prohibits us from offering varied terms like deferred pay or reduced pay options. It implies that salaries must be paid in full. However, due to our current financial position resulting from reduced operations, we are unable to fully meet the obligations of 100% pay for all staff, ” the CEO said.
Kivuka noted that the order affects the employees directly or indirectly as the airline has been restricted from sending employees on both unpaid and paid leaves.
“We cannot send our employees on unpaid leave as the court order now restricts this. Neither can we send the unionisable staff on paid leave as this is currently a matter in dispute in court, filed by the two unions, KALPA and KAWU, ” he added.
“…I know that you will be anxious about what this means explicitly for you. Unfortunately, we cannot determine how long this legal process will take. We will, however, appeal to the court to expedite the process to minimize the negative impact on you. This is not the way we would have wished to proceed, but the court order leaves us with no room to operate.”
Kivuka noted that this is not the right time to engage in court cases.
“It (suit) comes at a rather difficult time for the country, when we are playing a pivotal role in supporting the efforts in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic from a health and economic standpoint. Further, it sets a dark cloud on what is an exciting day as we resume domestic travel today, ” he said.
“Ultimately, all this puts at risk our support to the Government and the country in availing flights to transport international medical specialists to help our frontline healthcare workers. It jeopardises the movement of Personal Protective Equipment in the country and continent. Further, it injures our support of local and international trade through the movement of cargo.”
The airline begins its domestic flights today after months of suspension over the coronavirus fears.
International flights are scheduled to resume on August 1.