Labour court suspends aviation workers' strike after KQ suit

Wednesday March 18 2020

Aviation workers are dispersed by GSU officers at the JKIA in Nairobi following their strike that began on March 6, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Labour court has temporarily suspended the strike by aviation workers pending the hearing of the dispute on Thursday morning.

The workers downed their tools on Wednesday, citing displeasure with the board of management over unfair staff hiring and compensation and the proposed takeover of Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

This resulted in the suspension of flights and the deployment of officers of the General Service Unit to restore order.


Judge Onesmus Makau issued the order on Wednesday following an application by Kenya Airways, which asked the court to stop the strike that it termed illegal.

The national carrier said the Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) disapproved of its planned partnership with the Kenya Airports Authority on the management of the airport.


However, it noted in its court papers that, "[Neither has a] trade dispute been referred to the minister nor has conciliation taken place in accordance with the Labour Relations Act."

It also noted that the industrial action grounded operations its operations and resulted in a financial loss of Sh300 million, which it said would be incurred daily.

The airline further told the court that the strike had the potential of seriously hurting the economy as business people and tourists were among those affected.


The union filed its case at the High Court but failed to obtain orders stopping the partnership so its officials issued a strike notice on February 28.

“By way of a letter dated February 27, and served on Kenya Airways on March 1, 2019, the union issued a strike notice. Through an undated letter received by Kenya Airways on March 5, KAWU informed all its members employed by Kenya Airways that the strike would commence in the morning of March 6,” KQ says.

The airline told the court that KAWU did not follow procedures in calling the strike.

Earlier on Wednesday, Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the strike was illegal while Labour's Ukur Yatani appointed conciliators to help resolve the dispute that hit air transport.


Members of parliament have been looking into the plan that is detailed in the Privately Initiated Investment Proposal (PIIP), a proposal which they are yet to be supplied with.

The two were asked to return with the CS, whom the lawmakers said was best-placed to answer their questions on the takeover since the decision was made at Cabinet level.

Mr Muturi said that the PIC - a watchdog committee mandated to investigate the financial viability of public projects - was seized of the matter.