, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 4 – Kenya Airways (KQ) has started its controversial retrenching programme and dismissed over 100 employees.
The move comes even after the Prime Minister directed the airline’s management to suspend the programme and engage in consultations with the government and workers.
Officials of the Aviation and Allied Workers Union (AAWU) said it was against laid down regulations for the management to retrench the employees without any negotiations especially on benefits.
“The exercise started at around 12 o’clock today. We were ambushed and called for an urgent meeting including those who were on sick leave or any other kind of a leave,” said one union official. “Everyone was being called privately for the letters,” he added.
They allege that KQ has been employing foreigners on contract and plans to fill the gap left by the sacked employees with trainees.
The employees have also raised complaints that only workers Kenyan origin are facing retrenchment while jobs for foreign nationals performing similar duties are protected.
“We expect the process to continue tomorrow, and all those who have not been called are so worried because there was no notice. Yes the retrenchment cuts across all departments,” one of the affected employees said.
They said the majority of those being dismissed are cabin crew.
“They have been employing new people from other countries and increasing salaries for the top management.” the official said.
KQ earlier said it has been operating in very tough conditions due to the increasing wage bill thereby reducing its ability to operate profitably.
On August 3, the airline announced plans to shed off some staff through voluntary retirement, redundancies and outsourcing of non-core roles.
The airline’s Managing Director Titus Naikuni said the decision was made by the Board of Directors following a harsh operating environment that is currently characterized by a downturn in passenger volumes, declining revenues, unstable fuel prices and an increasingly competitive environment.
The exercise is expected to see between 650 to1,500 employees lose their jobs.
The airline said its labour costs have more than doubled in the last six years to stand at Sh13.4 billion, hence the need to streamline its cost structure.