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Court blocks KQ staff strike

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11- The Industrial Court has issued a temporary injunction stalling a planned strike on Wednesday by Kenya Airways staff, organised by the Aviation and Allied Workers Union (AAWU).
KQ Group Human Resource Director Paul Kasimu said on Tuesday that the demand of 130 percent salary increment by the staff was unattainable citing the challenges in the aviation industry.

“A 130-percent increment for a company at a time when operations are this bad would be tantamount to signing a death warrant,” he said.

Mr Kasimu said the injunction was not however a way of failure to address workers’ grievances but as way of giving more time for negotiations where a worthwhile solution would be agreed upon.

“You don’t hold a strike just for the sake of holding a strike. You do it when you feel the other side is not playing ball and I don’t think that is the case here,” Mr Kasimu protested.

“This therefore gives us ample time to once again address issues raised and hopefully we can finally agree on something attainable.”

Kenya Airways had proposed a four percent year-on-year increment totalling to eight percent which was rejected by the union.

According to the director, the lowest paid worker at the airline, a loader, earns a gross package of Sh22,000 sharply contrasting claims by AAWU that the lowest pay was Sh8,000.

“We would want to be competitive in our pay. We want to make sure that we bench mark and attract the best that there is,”

But at the same time Mr Kasimu highlighted the importance of a motivated workforce, but said the current economic climate does not allow for such increments at the time.

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He said airlines are posting huge loses and the aviation industry was not in a stable position that could allow for such increments.

“We want to listen to our employees. We want to make sure we recognise what they contribute to the company but that has to be tampered with affordability and accountability across the board,” he said.

In a statement, KQ Managing Director Titus Naikuni sought to reassure customers that operations at the airline would go on uninterrupted.

“Once again we urge al our customers to remain calm as we await settlement of the dispute and also to assure passengers that we will continue to maintain our schedule of integrity as we continue consultations with the union,” he said in the statement.

The twenty-one-day strike notice issued by the union as per the Labour Relations Act runs out mid night of August 11 with the strike to have commenced the following day August 12.

Kenya Airways management and AAWU officials have been directed to appear before the industrial court on September 17 at 9 am.

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