Kenya Airways Chairman calls pilots union action a ‘sideshow’


(Posted 29th July 2016)

Rabid Teamsters‘ was the phrase used by a regular aviation source from Nairobi when commenting on the Kenya Airline Pilots Association latest demands that Kenya Airways terminate their commercial agreements with Dutch national carrier KLM while still insisting that the current CEO must resign or else.
This so called union has overstepped their role for a long time now. They are on collision course with the Kenya government which is the largest shareholder of Kenya Airways and has approved the various measures the new management has put into place. What does that make them? Not honest advocates and lobbyists for our pilots but a rabid organization trying to assume powers they do not have and which are not theirs to wield. Perhaps it is time to call for a change of leadership at KALPA to get rid of radicals and see a new constructive leadership installed? A new team may be able to constructively engage with the airline’s management unlike the present lot which has lost all credibility through their outrageous demands‘.
It is clear that the KALPA leadership under Paul Gichinga and Njoroge Murimi has become deluded and power drunk and needs to be put in its place, preferable by relevant legislation, clipping its wings.
No wonder was the reaction by Kenya Airways’ Chairman of the Board, Ambassador Dennis Awori, swift and to the point, when he released the following statement:

Start quote:

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) issued a press statement we would like to address.

We acknowledge that Kenya Airways is going through a difficult phase. The leadership has given a clear direction on how to return Kenya Airways to profitability in a highly challenging business environment. The result of this has been a significant reduction in operational losses by 75% in FY 2015/16.

In addition, Kenya Airways has launched its turnaround program Operation PRIDE in November 2015 targeting more than USD 200M of recurring profit improvements which is on track.

We have been consistently communicating in good faith the progress of this program to all our stakeholders, including our pilots. In light of this, accusations made by KALPA are in bad faith and factually incorrect.

1. Staff rationalization exercise

· The staff rationalization exercise is being undertaken to right size Kenya Airways and is focused on both Kenya and the network.

· The rightsizing is still ongoing and is being done in a very responsible manner in full compliance with labor laws, Collective Bargaining Agreements and consultation with unions.

· · It is incorrect to assert without basis the retention of foreigners. Kenya Airways is an international company with employees across its network who are nationals of those countries.

2. Deloitte Consulting Forensic Audit on Kenya Airways

· KALPA has already been informed on several occasions that forensic audit is still ongoing and has been offered an opportunity to discuss this matter directly with the Board

· Making the interim results public would not only be irresponsible but is likely to greatly compromise investigations and the airline’s ability to seek redress, legal and otherwise, based on the forensic audit results

3. Change management

· Kenya Airways Board of Directors fully supports the CEO and the current leadership team of Kenya Airways.

· Moreover, there have been several changes in the management in the recent past to set up Kenya Airways for success and we will continue evaluating and making any changes we deem necessary.

4. Partnership with KLM

· KLM is both a shareholder and an important business partner to Kenya Airways.

· As is the practice in the airline industry, strategic partnerships are a key source of sustainable growth as they allow the airlines to reach scale and expand network at a lower cost.

· Partnership with KLM is commercially viable for Kenya Airways.

· We believe that this partnership is a key enabler in achieving our turnaround in the short term. The business is looking at all opportunities for improvements, including ways to further strengthen our partnership with KLM.

· All employees at Kenya Airways have been selected based on merit and KLM as our partner and shareholder has assisted in identifying the right talent for key positions at Kenya Airways.

· The fact that Kenya Airways and KLM have benefitted over the last 20 years financially is not in question.

· Our network strategy is based on the airline’s view of the level of capacity we need to avail to return to profitability.

· The airline has a comprehensive succession plan and all management director interviews and appointments are undertaken by the Board.

Kenya Airways is on the path to recovery as evidenced by the vastly improved operational performance. This success has been a collective effort and Kenya Airways is grateful to all its employees, shareholders and financiers who support the ongoing turnaround.

Pilots are one of the crucial stakeholders of the airline and are well embedded in its day to day business. We urge our pilots and their representative union KALPA, to constructively and responsibly engage in supporting Kenya Airways in achieving its turnaround.

We are now embarking on an important next phase on capital optimization that requires our undivided attention and focus not sideshows.



End quote

It is expected that both board and management of Kenya Airways, but most notably the Kenyan Government, will treat the latest KALPA demands with the contempt they deserve and get on with putting the airline back on a sound financial footing.