After the bombing of Brussels Airport and ten anxious days of waiting for the facility to be declared ready for reopening and flights to resume, the Belgian air traffic controllers decided to go on a two-day, wild-cat strike.
Brussels Airlines, with figures becoming available today, is looking at an overall cost impact of some 70 million euros for the entire period. Yet it is thought that the strike action cost them more than twice the average daily losses during the airport closure days due to the result of the strike.
While this is, of course, not a match to the Kenyan situation, underlying factors are, however, quite comparable. The Kenya Airline Pilots Association is looking at a strike action within 48 hours.
Some time ago, KALPA appropriated itself the powers of the shareholders AGM when they insisted that the entire management of Kenya Airways resign or they would strike, but a strike at that time was prevented.
Kenya Airways felt obliged to issue a public statement:
KENYA AIRWAYS STATEMENT ON KENYA AIRLINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION (KALPA) April 26, 2016
Last year we embarked on a turnaround program “Operation Pride” to improve our profitability, revisit our operating model and network, and seek a long term sustainable financial structure for our business. In the last few months, we have taken some hard decisions on the aircraft we fly as well as making substantial changes on other aspects of our business. The strategy is fully endorsed by the Board, shareholders and our staff.
As part of Operation Pride, we announced and gave due notice on 31st March 2016 that there would be a staff rationalization and redeployment exercise. These measures are among the many that we are undertaking and accounts for less than 10% of the overall turnaround plan.
In the intervening period, we have held consultations with all key stakeholders including our two staff representative unions KALPA and KAWU. We have had three meetings so far with each union and have not hit a deadlock. The next meeting with KALPA is scheduled for 28th April 2016.
Though we have not been formally served, we have read from media reports that KALPA has issued a 48-hour strike notice. According to Kenyan Law, such a strike would be illegal, as it is in violation of the required minimum period of seven days’ notice.
We are surprised and consider it the height of insincerity, bad faith and an act of economic sabotage for KALPA to allege to issue a strike notice knowing fully well the current challenging business environment facing the airline and also in light of the ongoing consultations.
We would like to assure our customers and travel trade partners that we are fully operational, and as the national carrier are committed to serving you with pride.
What the airline tactfully calls insincerity, others call an act of backstabbing, while the carefully-chosen words in the statement of bad faith and economic sabotage can here be upped to being a fifth column of anti-patriots, deluded in their perception of their power as they dance on the edge of subversion.
The only option now is for the airline to go to court and get an injunction, but then KALPA has trampled on such court orders in the past with some impunity, and its key agitators have avoided jail time for contempt of court by the narrowest of margins.
It remains to be seen how this plays out, if cooler and more rational minds prevail at KALPA or if they are tempted to tear up court orders and risk jail time should they be ordered to refrain from calling for strikes, slow goes, or inducing members to call in sick for no cause.
Meanwhile, KALPA remains the bane of Kenya Airways as incidentally also thought by fellow aviation union KAWU.