Court orders striking Kenya Airways pilots back to work

A Nairobi court has ordered striking Kenya Airways pilots to return to work by Wednesday morning after the days-long walkout forced dozens of flight cancellations and left thousands of passengers stranded.

The Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KALPA) launched the strike at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Saturday, defying a court order issued last week against the industrial action.

Justice Anna Mwaure on Tuesday ordered "the Kenya Airways pilots to resume their duties as pilots by 6:00 am on 9th November 2022 unconditionally".

The walkout has exacerbated the woes facing the troubled national carrier, which has been running losses for years, despite the government pumping in millions of dollars to keep it afloat.

There was no immediate response from KALPA to the court order, which came as the airline announced that most of its flights had been cancelled due to the strike.

The carrier on Monday announced that it was ending its recognition of the union and withdrawing from their collective bargaining deal, accusing KALPA of "exposing the airline to irreparable damage".

Mwaure said the court would now consider the issue and ordered the airline's management to allow the pilots "to perform their duties without harassing them or intimidating them and especially by not taking any disciplinary action against any of them".

The airline, which is part owned by the government as well as Air France-KLM, is one of the biggest in Africa, connecting multiple countries to Europe and Asia.

On Sunday, the airline said 56 flights had been cancelled due to the strike, disrupting 12,000 passengers' plans.

The protesting pilots, who make up 10 percent of the workforce, are pressing for the reinstatement of contributions to a provident fund and payment of all salaries stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The carrier has warned that the strike would jeopardise its recovery, estimating losses at $2.5 million per day.

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