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KQ staff cuts were barbaric – Ministry

NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 2 – The Ministry of Labour has declared the recent retrenchment at Kenya Airways (KQ) as illegal and termed the exercise as “cruel and barbaric.”

Speaking before the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Welfare, Labour Permanent Secretary Beatrice Kituyi said from her Ministry’s investigation there was no dialogue or pre-retrenchment counseling for staff, which went against the normal retrenchment process under the law.

“The consultation between the workers and employees was hampered. Dialogue between the management and the union is critical in ensuring that this is done in accordance in the law, the Collective Bargaining Agreement and in a humane way,” she said.

The “hurried” implementation process, she added, saw some employees released from the airline on voluntary early retirement, yet they had not opted for it.

According to the airline, 21 percent or 126 of the estimated 600 members of staff that left the company, volunteered to take up the company’s layoff package, which was an estimated average payout of up to Sh2 million.

“Some employees received information through text messages, while on duty, or on sick leave or maternity. It was very cruel and barbaric,” Labour Assistant Minister Sospeter Ojaamong’ told the Parliamentary Committee.

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Amos Kimunya, who also appeared before the Committee, supported the retrenchment exercise by the airline and insisted that due diligence was followed adding that the exercise was necessary because KQ could not sustain labour costs.

“We support every move they’ve been making so long as it is done within the Collective Bargaining Agreement signed with the Union and within the Employment Act. What I’m aware of is that there had been those discussions in the Ministry of Labour,” he explained.

On the contrary, the Labour Ministry says it was not consulted on the retrenchment process, and only received the redundancy notice from the airline that was copied to the Labour Minister.

“That is a pure lie,” Ojaamong’ said in response to claims by the Transport Minister that the Labour Ministry had been consulted, “I don’t remember any one time when we had a meeting or consultations as required,” he added.

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KQ has defended its move to retrench almost 600 staff, citing employment costs doubling over the last five years, from Sh6.1 billion in 2007 to Sh13.6 billion this year.

Kituyi says KQ management did not consider other options to retrenchment, when looking for a solution to the increasing labour costs, adding that though the matter is now in court, she encouraged the parties to hold dialogue on the contentious issues of the retrenchment exercise.

The Labour Ministry has completed investigations on the retrenchment process and will produce a final report before the Labour Committee on Friday.

The report is to reveal the actual number of retrenched staff, whether KQ decided to outsource some of its core business, the airline’s profits and a detailed account of the retrenchment exercise.

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