Over 12,000 passengers were affected by the disruption at Kenya Airways. [Photo/ Mshale]

The Labour and Employment Relations Court has directed striking pilots at the national carrier, Kenya Airways, to return to work at 6am on Wednesday, November 9. Kenya Airways was directed to allow the pilots to return to work without facing any disciplinary action over the strike, pending determination of the suit.

The strike by pilots under the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (KALPA) is currently in its fourth day, with Kenya Airways estimating that it is losing Ksh300 million per day. Over 12,000 passengers were affected by the disruption.

The Court issued the decision on Tuesday, November 7 in a bid to break the stalemate that has hit the loss-making airline hard. Justice Ann Mwaure put the pilots on the spot for disregarding a temporary injunction issued by the court stopping the strike last week, and further noted the mounting losses at KQ.

“If we give you 7 days to respond, what is going to happen to your organisation (Kenya Airways)…jailing you is not a solution…Before I give my judgement, can you obey the court order and go back to work?” she posed. The case will be mentioned on November 21st.

Besides payment of deferred salaries and pension perks, the pilots had demanded the resignation of senior management at KQ including CEO Allan Kilavuka. KQ maintains that the pilots are being unreasonable as the company was not in a position to immediately meet their demands.

“We are aware that KALPA has given notice of a strike, with the main grievance being the non-payment of contributions to the Provident funds. We recognize this as a genuine grievance but don’t believe its a justifiable strike reason, as no amount of strike action can produce more cash to pay both the deferred salaries and provident fund contributions simultaneously,” board chair Michael Joseph noted in an earlier statement.

In the fruitless talks held to resolve the stalemate, KQ and KALPA accused each other of being unwilling to compromise on their hardline stances.

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