KQ pilots slam airline management over planned job cuts

Kenya Airways (KQ) Pilots represented by the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) have slammed the airline’s management over its nature of layoffs announced last week.

In a letter addressed to Group CEO Allan Kilavuka, the pilots have termed the decision to cut jobs as ill-timed and inadvisable.

In their argument, KALPA argues planned job cuts are in bad faith at a time when all KQ staff have already faced deep pay cuts and unpaid leave tenures to cushion the carrier from declining revenues.

“As per your letter to KALPA, you have further indicated that you will not be able to cover the airline costs fully, including the already reduced salaries, and as such would want a majority of staff to proceed on unpaid leave. Now here begs the question; how is it that an organisation which has been struggling to cover direct costs, including reduced salaries since April 2020, now claim to be planning an expensive and costly staff rationalization exercise?” posed the pilots.

The pilots further slam the carrier for going against the government guidance in the need to protect jobs at a time when the aviation industry is drawing closer to a rebound in activity along with the planned nationalization of the company.

The pilots argue the forecasted rebound of the industry over the next two years presents the opportune time to embark on recruitment to address significant pilot shortages witnessed in recent years leaving behind a huge balance of pilots annual leave days’ estimated in excess of 40,000 days.

“Allan, job losses and unpaid leave are very sensitive matters that cannot be dealt with in the direction you and your management team are attempting to pursue,” the pilots add.

KALPA says it is now willing to consider unpaid leave as an option, only if the measure has to be put in place to secure jobs at KQ and cushion the airline from further effects of the pandemic.

The planned job cuts mark the first tiff between the pilots association and newly-appointed CEO Allan Kilavuka.

Kilavuka took over ranks from Sebastian Mikosz who walked away ahead of the end of his contract with the carrier in December last year, having himself engaged in a face-off with the pilots over the hiring criteria of cabin-crew members.

Last week, the management of Kenya Airways issued a redundancy notice to its staff attributing the layoffs to the pandemic which it projects to trim annual revenues by up to Ksh.50 billion by December.

Already, KQ has sent over 100 employees packing including 22 pilots over the last week alone including contracted and sub-contacted members.

The redundancy process is expected to run through to September 30.

Job cuts at Kenya’s flag carrier comes even as the aviation industry marks light at the end of the tunnel with President Uhuru Kenyatta announcing the return to both domestic and international air travel on July 15 and August 1 respectively.