.. As Unions set to picket airline
Kenya Airways on Friday sacked 22 out of its 26 Nigerian employees, representing 86.4 per cent of the affected workers.
piqued by this development, the aviation workers unions are set for a showdown with the airline.
A source close to the airline said the staff were issued the disengagement letters at the airline’s office in Lagos in the presence of stern looking police officers who were engaged by the airline to scare away the affected staff and prevent possible breakdown of law and order.
Only four of the airline’s Nigerian staff are retained by the management of the airline after the purging exercise. Those retained are Country Manager, Mr. Afeez Balogun, the Station Manager, and two other staff.
The source statedthat the affected staff were only given four weeks wages on disengagement by the management, a situation the industry unions are already frowning at.
It was gathered that the abrupt sack of the Nigerian workers happened when the airline was still negotiating the new condition of service with the industry unions.
The source said the carrier’s management took the decision without taking into consideration the Nigeria labour laws, which kicks against unilateral decision by employers when disengaging workers.
It was learnt that plans have also reached an advanced stage by the management of the airline to replace the sacked workers with casuals as it has already contracted engagement of new workers to a General Sales Agent (GSA) in the country.
However, there are indications that the sack of the workers may cause disruption to the smooth operations of the airline today (Monday) as the unions have prepared to picket the operations of the airline.
The General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye while confirming the sack of the 22 workers noted that that the unilateral sack of the workers by the airline would not be allowed to stand by the industry unions.
Abioye insisted that the sack of the workers was illegal especially at a time the management had reached an agreement to implement some of the reviewed conditions of service for the workers.
He said: “We have been agitating for the review of terms and conditions of employment in Kenya Airways for about two years. We started the process and somewhere along the line, the management of Kenya Airways said they were doing restructuring exercise because of the financial conditions of the airline. In the meantime, we have even agreed to certain reviews approved by both parties and only waiting for implementation.
“That was one of the reasons we embarked on the picketing we did last December. Then, after the picketing, we were invited and we concluded the review after the review, we discovered that our Nigerian staff were being owed about 26 months monetary benefits. They claimed that they won’t be able to pay all, but after the consultations, we agreed for 16 months to be paid the workers.
“In between, they introduced a new shift into the discussion, saying that going forward they want to replace all business plans with new business plans called General Sales Agent (GSA), which means they want to engage a travelling agency to handle the ticket sales and reservation and all the workers would be sacked.
“We as unions, didn’t like that and we expressed our dissatisfaction and they said it was not just only Nigeria that would be affected, but throughout the continent. Then, we just said we have formed a consortium of GSA so that the workers would still be retained, but they informed us that we were too late and as they have engaged another GSA already.”
He explained further that the unions had informed the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Muhtar Usman of its intent to picket the operations of the airline any moment from now.
He emphasised that the attention of the Minister of State for Aviation, Sen. Hadi Sirika would also be drawn to the action of the airline and the decision to be taken by the unions.
He, however, said that the unions would jointly hold a congress on the issue in Lagos on Monday April 17, saying the outcome of the congress would determine the next line of action to be taken by the unions, but insisted it would not accept shabby treatment of Nigerian workers by any organisations.