Kenya Airways Pilots Win Reprieve From Court in Jobs Clash

A court ordered Kenya Airways Plc to stop a plan to fire some pilots pending the determination of a case challenging the move, according to a ruling by Judge Onesmus Makau on Tuesday.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest airline said not being able to proceed with the cuts imperils the viability of the airline. Kenya Airways is facing financial troubles that have partly set it up for full nationalization, and were exacerbated by the coronavirus fallout.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association claims the redundancy notices that the airline sent to its members are irregular, and asked the court to void them.

The coronavirus outbreak has battered airlines around the world as governments imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread of the virus. The International Air Transport Association has warned many will be bankrupted.

Kenya Airways projects it will require 258 of its 414 pilots for reduced operations, even after travel restrictions are lifted. The company has 4,660 workers with an annual wage bill of about 14.4 billion shillings ($133.2 million), about 45% of which goes to pilots.

The cuts could save the East Africa nation’s carrier 4 billion shillings a year, according to court fillings.The first phase of job cuts in June affected 650 employees on contract and the next would be a redundancy process for 590 staff.

The pilots want any planned job cuts to wait for the government’s takeover, which may involve buying out Air France-KLM and a group of lenders who converted their debt into equity. Job cuts may be unnecessary in the end depending on the new growth plan, according to the pilots’ association.

The airline’s employees belonging to unions won an interim injunction in a separate case against redundancies earlier, and the matter was referred to a conciliator.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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