Kenya Airways has sacked 150 employees in its first phase of retrenchment defying last week’s directive from Prime Minister Raila Odinga asking it to suspend the exercise.
The workers union, Aviation and Allied Workers Union (AAWU) said on Tuesday the airline seemed to have started with staff who participated in the 2009 strike.
“Most of the 150 employees retrenched are those that participated in the strike, but the letters say they have been found redundant,” AAWU Chairperson Ms Perpetua Mponjiwa told the Nation on phone.
The sackings are a signal that the airline is determined to brush off government's interference.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga had on Fridaydirected Kenya Airways to suspend the planned retrenchment of its employeesexpected to see between 650 to1500 employees lose their jobs.
This was a day after employees of the airline petitioned the government to intervene in the layoffs after the Industrial Court lifted orders barring the airline from sacking them.
Mr Odinga said the petition had raised a number of pertinent questions regarding the planned retrenchment and whether the Company's is applying good corporate practice.
“For instance, it is unclear whether Kenya Airways has explored all available options for reducing its wage bill including introducing pay cuts,” the letter read, adding that it was not clear whether the Company has engaged the Aviation and Allied Workers Union (AAWU) in discussions over the planned staff rationalization.
The union had also raised complains that only employees of Kenyan origin are facing retrenchment while jobs for foreign nationals performing similar duties are protetected
recent past, similarPublic Companies such as Orange Telkom Kenya that have undertaken massive employee retrenchment entered into negotiation with the workers union and agreed on a settlement package that was mutually acceptable to both parties and the Government,” the letter from the office of the prime minister read.
Kenya Airways on August 3 announced the terms of the staff rationalisation programme which will start with a Voluntary Early Retirement programme followed by a redundancy programme citing the need to ensure long-term sustainability of its business.
This prompted the workers union move the industrial court seeking to stop the airline's action on the grounds it had breached the labour relations act that require a firm to engage workers through their union before terminating their services.
The court had temporarily granted the orders which were lifted.
“Despite various initiatives that we have put in place, our cost base continue to be extremely high. This coupled with other direct operating costs, have put pressure on our contribution margin reducing our overall ability to operate profitably,” the airlines Chief Executive Titus Naikuni said in a statement released early this month.
Mr Naikuni said the decision, made by the airline’s Board of Directors following a harsh operating environment that is currently characterised by a downturn in passenger volumes, declining revenues, unstable fuel prices and an increasingly competitive environment.
Naikuni said the exercise started on August 1, 2012 owing to the large increase in headcount in 2011/12, significant annual staff salary increments, and costly decisions driven by the Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) negotiations with the staff unions driving labour costs to unsustainable levels.
Kenya Airways employment costs have more than doubled over the last six years, having risen from Sh6 billion in the year 2007 to Sh13.4 billion in 2012.
The number of Kenyan employees has grown from 3,729 to 4,170 during the same period, while the