NAIROBI, Kenya Mar 1 – Kenya Airways has defended its decision to suspend an employee accused of filming a Chinese plane that landed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) last week with 239 onboard.
The video went viral, sparking outrage from Kenyans who accused the government of allowing flights in from coronavirus-hit countries.
But even the suspension of the employee has sparked criticism from Kenyans, mainly on social media, who accused KQ of unfairly targeting the staff.
Uasin Gishu Senator Professor Margaret Kamar said KQ was not justified in suspending the employee because many other people had taken photographs and video of the same.
“Everybody who was there took photos, KQ is careless to just pick one person when all of us were worried, I mean how can you cover for a whole plane? Everybody saw it even passengers took photos and we received them as well,” she said.
In a statement, the airline noted that it took the action after receiving a letter from Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) indicating that there had been a breach of airside security procedures at JKIA.
In suspending the employee identified as Gire Ali, the airline accused him of poor handling and management of passengers arriving from virus-hit China which is the epicentre of the virus that has killed over 2000 people worldwide, many of them in China, and infected close to 100,000 others.
“It has been determined that you be suspended from duty with effect from February 27, 2020 in accordance with provisions of clause 16.5 of the Company HR Policy Manual,” the letter signed by KQ’s Chief Human Resources Officer Evelyne noted.
KQ said that an operator at JKIA, it expected to adhere to Airport security procedures and regulations set by KAA as the airport regulator and which are prescribed by law.
The Institute of Human Resource management had sought clarification from KQ on whether it followed and applied its Human resource procedures and principles as well as the provisions of the Employment Act.
“The purpose of this letter is to seek from you a confirmation that as a registered human resource professional, you followed the laid down procedures and principles established by Kenya Airways as well as the provisions of the Employment Act in the discharge of your professional duties leading up to the suspension,”
The Kenyan government had said it was not planning to ban flights from China over coronavirus fears, insisting it is following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines in managing the situation.
However, the arrival of a flight from China prompted the Law Society of Kenya to file suit in court seeking to compel the government to bar landings from China.
The High Court subsequently issued an order barring flights from China for 10 days, until the urgent case is determined.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday issued an Executive Order , establishing a national emergency response committee to evaluate and enhance preparedness by equipping all Level Five Hospitals by mid next month.
According to the executive order, the mandate of the committee extends to “formulating, enforcing and reviewing of processes and requirements that regulate the entry into Kenya of any persons or class of persons known or suspected to have traveled from a Coronavirus affected area.”
[Mary Thuo contributed to this article]