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Kenya Airways workers call off strike

NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 16- Kenya Airways workers have finally called off their three-day strike after their union accepted a 20 percent pay increase that will be spread over a two-year period.

The Secretary General of the Aviation and Allied Workers (AAWU) Union Jimmy Masege said the strike ended following intense negotiations that went on into the night on Saturday.

"I ask all employees to co-operate and work hard to make up for lost time.  Whatever has happened should be a lesson for the management and the union that we need to work closely," he said at a news conference.

He specifically appealed to the cabin crew workers who were the main cause for delayed and otherwise cancelled flights.

Kenya Airways Managing Director Titus Naikuni said with the standoff finally over, the airline would endeavour to resolve the current backlog of flights mainly focusing on the routes greatly affected by the strike.

"We still haven’t come out of the woodwork yet because we still have a backlog at the airport.  We are concentrating mostly on West Africa where we had problems.  We plan to have a flight Lagos, Kinshasa, Accra and Bamako Dakar," Mr Naikuni said.

The 20percent pay increase will increase the wage bill at Kenya Airways by Sh900 million.

According to Mr Naikuni, salaries cost the airline Sh5.8 billion and now KQ will spend Sh6.7 billion to pay its employees.

He also revealed that for the time being, the airline would resume flights depending on the availability of crew members on specific routes.

The MD reacted sharply to claims that the airline was under staffed saying the airline would never contravene Kenya Civil Aviation (KCA) regulations.

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"The law requires us to fly with a minimum of three crew members which was the case especially on the Mombasa route."

He also revealed that he had invited KCA to audit the airlines operations during the period to quell any safety concerns passengers may have.

Mr Masege also apologised to all passengers for any inconveniences caused by the strike, and called on them not to lose faith in Kenya Airways.

The two groups also agreed to withdraw all dismissal letters that had been issued to workers who took part in the strike, but would still appear before the industrial court on Monday morning to record the consent.

Fifty one dismissal letters had already been issued to striking workers.

The Saturday night meeting that brought together the KQ management and the Union under the conciliation of the Federation of Kenya Employers, and the Central Organization of Trade Union agreed on a return to work formula.

All staff are now required to resume duty by 6pm on Sunday.

Mr Naikuni refuted claims that they had given in to the demands of the union saying, "in such situations there is no winner.  What happened is that we were able to resolve what happened and put in place measures to ensure this never happens again."

He also promised to corporate, "where possible", with union members who have cases before court.

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The two groups were scheduled to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga and other government ministers to draw up permanent solutions to avoid a re-emergence of such events later on Sunday evening.

Despite the agreement, passengers still faced delays at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) early on Sunday following the three-day strike.

A spot check by Capital News found hundreds of passengers who were due to fly Kenya Airways to various destinations still stranded at the airport.

Some whose flights were scheduled on Friday told Capital News that they had been reporting to the airport everyday but were forced back.

"I am on the 9am flight to Johannesburg and it’s already 9.20am.  We have been told that there is no plan for the flight today," one of the passengers said.

Another female traveller said: "I am travelling to Bamako (Mali) from Dubai and I have been waiting for two days but there is no flight for us."

Another traveller said he had been waiting to proceed to Ghana since Friday without any success.  "I arrived here at about a quarter to seven for my flight and we are still here," he said.

The passengers complained that there was little communication from the Kenya Airways management.

"There has been no communication at all. There are people who have been here since Friday and they are yet to travel so I don’t know what happens to us who came today," said a passenger who was scheduled to travel to South Africa.

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"We have to hustle and find out any details but it would have been good if they made announcements because we have been standing here since early morning," another passenger complained.

When Capital News arrived at the airport, weary and tired passengers were reading newspapers and novels while others strolled around impatiently. All of them were waiting outside the departures unit.

"They say that they are trying to put us on the Ethiopian airlines," a passenger travelling to Mali said.

"The only thing they said is there is no use waiting here right now so we are just getting rumours from anyone walking by," said another passenger.

Those travelling to London and Amsterdam were asked to report to the Kenya Airways booking office in the centre for Nairobi to be re-booked awaiting flights slated for Sunday night or Monday, according to on-ground staff who cannot be named because they were not allowed to give any information to Journalists.


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