Pilots at troubled national flag carrier, Kenya Airways plan to go on strike from Saturday to seek better working conditions despite a court order suspending the industrial action, their union said Friday.
The airline, partly owned by the government as well as Dutch carrier KLM, is one of the continent’s biggest, connecting multiple nations within Africa to Europe and Asia, but it is facing turbulent times.
The Kenya Airlines Pilots Association (KALPA) said a series of meetings with the airline management had failed to resolve the pilots’ grievances.
No Kenya Airways flight will depart Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport from 6:00 am (0300 GMT) on Saturday, said the union’s secretary general, Captain Murithi Nyaga.
“Kenya Airways management’s actions have left us with no other option,” Nyaga said, adding that a 14-day notice on the action had ended without a solution.
“We had hoped that the management of the airline would soften its stance and engage in negotiation on the issues raised.”
The pilots, who have had a particularly fraught relationship with management, are pressing for the reinstatement of contributions to a provident fund.
They also want back payment of all salaries stopped during the Covid pandemic.
Kenya Airways on Wednesday warned the strike would jeopardise its recovery and said none of the grievances by the pilots merited a strike.
“Industrial action is unnecessary at this point, as it will delay and disrupt the financial and operational recovery and cause reputational damage to Kenya Airways,” board chairman Michael Joseph said in a statement.
On Monday, the airline won a court injunction stopping the strike but the pilots’ union have nevertheless vowed to down tools.
An official at KALPA told AFP the pilots “were acting within the provisions of the law”, referring to the expiry of the strike notice.
Kenya Airways was founded in 1977 following the demise of East African Airways and flies over four million passengers to 42 destinations annually.
But its “Pride of Africa” slogan rings hollow as it is operating thanks to state bailouts following years of losses.
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) has confirmed the death of two officers in the crash involving one of its trainer aircraft in Kaduna State.
NAF Director of Public Relation and Information, Air Commodore Edward Gabkwet, in a statement on Wednesday, identified the officers as Flight Lieutenant Abubakar Alkali and Flight Lieutenant Elijah Karatu.
He revealed that the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Oladayo Amao, visited Kaduna a day after the aircraft crashed, killing the officers onboard at the NAF Base in Kaduna.
Gabkwet explained that the air force chief was in Kaduna to commiserate with families, friends, and colleagues of the two pilots.
Amao, according to the NAF spokesman, promised that the air force would ensure it thoroughly investigates the cause of the crash of the Super Mushshak trainer aircraft.
Upon receiving the sad news of the crash on Tuesday, the air marshal constituted an Accident Investigation Board to determine the immediate and remote causes of the crash.
While in Kaduna, he assured the officers, airmen, and airwomen of 401 Flying Training School that all measures would be emplaced to avert a similar occurrence in the future.
Amao, however, reminded them of the need to remain steadfast and focus on their assigned roles and responsibilities in view of the onerous task before the NAF and other security agencies to rid the North West and the entire nation of all criminal elements.
“The unfortunate incident of yesterday’s trainer aircraft crash is yet again a tragic reminder of the perilous nature of the military flying profession as well as the risks NAF pilots continually take, daily, to secure Nigeria’s territorial integrity,” Gabkwet said.
The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has cautioned all pilots in the country over severe thunderstorms and other hazardous weather conditions which hamper flight operations, especially during the rainy season.
According to the agency, the warning is a follow-up to the Advisory Circular addressed to all Pilots and Airline Operators and signed by the Director-General of NCAA, Captain Musa Nuhu.
The circular signed on Wednesday by the DG of the agency is coming on the advent of the Seasonal Climate Prediction (SCP) released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) for the year 2021.
NIMET has predicted early/late March as the commencement of the rainy season in the Southern states while late April/June 2021 is the commencement of the rainy season in the Central and Northern parts of Nigeria.
Consequently, the weather advisory circular is necessary to bring forth the evolving weather information associated with the commencement of the rainy season and the effects on the safety and efficiency of flight operations; and to elicit the cooperation of the following stakeholders to ensure safe air transportation at all times.
“Therefore, Pilots, Operators, and Air Traffic Controllers Pilots are directed to observe series of responsibilities enumerated below forthwith: Air Traffic Controllers may temporarily close the airspace when any of the conditions in (1) are observed or forecast by NIMET; Flight Crews/Operators and Air Traffic Controllers (ATC) to ensure adherence to published aerodrome weather minima; Pilots to exercise maximum restraint whenever adverse weather is observed or forecast by NIMET; and Pilots/Flight Crew members to obtain adequate departure, en-route and destination weather information and briefing from NIMET Aerodrome Meteorological Offices prior to flight operations,” the circular read in part.
The Authority, therefore, enjoins all passengers to exercise patience and understanding during this period of heavy downpour and observe strict compliance.
Air Peace, has sacked scores of pilots across its fleet and have slashed staff salaries by up to 40 per cent.
This was confirmed on Monday by the airline’s spokesman, Mr. Stanley Olise.
According to Mr. Olise’s statement, the retrenchment, and shedding of staff is not unlinked with the economic devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Describing the sacking as “painful but rightful decision,” the airline’s management said the cutbacks were necessary to ensure that Air Peace survives the hardship of the times.
The spokesman’s communique further stressed that the decision was inevitable under the circumstances, adding that the move was made in order to protect the continuity of the majority of the existing jobs and the possibility of creating new ones in the future, as well as to ensure the survival of the airline.
Below is the full statement as released by Mr. Olise on behalf of the Air Peace management.
“The Management of Air Peace wishes to state that it has taken a very painful but rightful decision, in the circumstances the airline has found itself as a result of the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its operations and financial health, to terminate the employment of some of its pilots.
“This decision was taken for the greater good of the company and its almost 3000 workforce, the affected pilots inclusive. The airline cannot afford to toe the path of being unable to continue to fulfill its financial obligations to its staff, external vendors, aviation agencies, maintenance organisations, insurance companies, banks and other creditors hence the decision to restructure its entire operations with a view to surviving the times.
“The pandemic has hit every airline worldwide so badly that it has become very impossible for airlines to remain afloat without carrying out internal restructuring of their costs. Anything short of what we have done may lead to the collapse of an airline as could be seen in some places worldwide during this period. Therefore, we decided to review the salaries being paid to all staff. The new salaries reflect a 0%-40% cut of the former salary depending on the salary grades of every staff. Even after the cuts, it was obvious that for us to be able to sustain our operations and survive the times, some jobs must inevitably have to go.
“Air Peace has never, for one day, ever owed salaries to its workers in its almost six years of existence, pilots inclusive. Rather the management of Air Peace has always been known to be increasing salaries of its employees periodically without being prompted by staff. In fact, in one fell swoop, Air Peace increased the salaries of pilots by over 100% in one day! Our salaries have always been paid even before the end of the month in the last 5 years!
“So we love all our staff. This decision is inevitable under the circumstances we find ourselves. In order to protect the continuity of majority of the existing jobs and the possibility of creating new ones in future, the survival of the airline is of paramount importance. When everything comes back to normal those pilots affected today will have a place to come back to in future if they so wish.
“The decision is a reflection of the negative impact of the pandemic on airlines and aviation worldwide. We are in trying times. Even the biggest airlines in Europe, America, Middle East, Asia, Australia and, indeed, Africa, are all either slashing jobs and cutting salaries in order to remain afloat or are shutting down. Air Peace is not immune from these challenges.”
Aviation workers under the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) have shut the operations of Bristow Helicopters across the country owing to a pay disparity.
The association claimed the management has been unfair to Nigerian staff who do the same job as the expatriates but earn less.
During the demonstration, the workers were seen singing solidarity songs at the Head Office of Bristow Helicopters in Lagos which has been shut down.
They accused the company of paying expatriates their full remuneration in dollars but insisted on benchmarking salaries of national pilots and engineers to an obsolete rate of N345 per dollar, saying it was not obtainable on any legal foreign exchange window in the world.
The protesters also claimed that Bristow has refused to train qualified persons for Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL) and failed to fully reimburse individuals who have successfully completed their ATPL through self-sponsorship.
According to them, this is a deviation from the agreement in place at the time and disproportionate matching and capped reimbursement cash figure for self-sponsored pilots on ATPL with an employment bond of N30 million.
They accused the company of odious laying off of young cadet and trainee engineers after several years of tearful sacrificial toiling on the basis of a promised career in the company.
The workers also claimed that they have consistently engaged the management of the company to address the issues raised but such efforts have failed.
They accused the company of discrimination and victimisation, stressing that members were no longer mentally conditioned to safely deliver their professional obligations.
In its reaction, the management of Bristow Helicopters denied the allegations and described the strike by the workers as illegal.
According to the company, the action of the workers runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Labour Laws and Practices.
In a statement, it also faulted the claims by the striking workers that all negotiations have broken down.
The company’s management, however, said it remained committed to continuing the dialogue with the association.
Read the full statement from the company below:
We have been made aware of a notice of indefinite strike by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) to commence at 00hours on 3rd August 2020 contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian Labour Laws and Practices.
Contrary to NAAPE’s assertion that all negotiations have broken down, the company remains willing and prepared to continue dialogue with NAAPE but NAAPE have elected to abandon negotiations to embark on a strike action which is both illegal and unwarranted.
NAAPE has highlighted some issues as being “under contention” and it is necessary to clarify these issues, most of which arise out of an agreement executed in 2019 between Bristow and NAAPE (“the 2019 Agreement”).
Bristow proposed to put a ‘pause’ on the Pilots and Engineers Conditions of Service (COS) negotiations recognizing the recent global outbreak of COVID 19, the plummeting of global oil prices and the mandatory 22% OPEC cuts to Nigeria’s crude oil production – All which have had a significant impact on our business and capacity utilization in Nigeria.
It is important to state that notwithstanding the economic challenges in the aviation industry since the spread of COVID-19 Bristow pilots and engineers have remained the best paid in their industry and have not suffered any reduction or change in their salaries, at a time when operations have reduced by 50%.
In the 2019 Agreement, the parties agreed the relevant exchange rate at which the salaries of Bristow Pilots and Engineers would be calculated. In the agreement, both parties agreed on NGN345/$1 (at a time when the CBN exchange rate was NGN306/$1) with a provision for adjustment if the NAFEX rate moves in either direction by 20% or more.
Currently, the NAFEX rate has not reached the agreed threshold. Bristow has fully complied with the provisions of the agreement with NAAPE. By its demand, NAAPE is seeking to act contrary to the legally binding agreement it signed voluntarily.
In the signed 2019 agreement, Bristow committed to full sponsorship of up to four senior first officers SFOs within a financial year for their ATPL course, dependent upon operational requirements and the prevailing market realities.
Three individuals were identified, and the process of training commenced. Unfortunately, and through no fault of Bristow, the selected individuals were unable to obtain the necessary travel and study visas.
Furthermore, the proposed school identified was unable to obtain the required accreditation from the US Government for them to be used as a fully licensed training organisation.
Bristow has documents to prove that the claim of non-reimbursement of funds for self-sponsored pilots is false as two senior first officers SFOs (who have now been promoted to Captains) have been reimbursed fully for the cost of their ATPL courses.
Bristow rejects the accusation of any sharp practice regarding bonding of Pilots. The pegged ATPL reimbursement cost is in line with the costs presented to the company by individuals seeking reimbursement.
Bristow complies with all relevant laws and procedures and the exit of any employees will be in accordance with such laws and procedures.
The implementation of the engineering matrix is in line with the 2019 Agreement. NAAPE is now demanding that Bristow ‘shorten’ the current engineering matrix from fifteen (15) years to ten (10) years, which is contrary to the 2019 Agreement.
Given the far-reaching implications this has for experience and safety levels within our operations, we have offered to bring in independent subject matter experts to provide unbiased and professional advice regarding NAAPE’s demands.
NAAPE is yet to accept this proposal. Safety underpins everything Bristow does and under no circumstances shall Bristow compromise its standards or the safety of its operations.
Bristow has not and will not be in the practice of “jettisoning” legally binding agreements. Each base of operation has its peculiarities. For the particular base in question, Bristow was unable to run a two-pattern shift system due to factors outside of Bristow’s control.
An agreement was reached with NAAPE where their members will run extended shifts and in turn, get compensated for the extra hours worked.
Following extensive reviews with all stakeholders, Bristow has communicated (to NAAPE) its readiness to implement the two-shift system subject to lifting of travel restrictions in the affected base. Bristow has commenced the review and publication of a two-shift roster.
The accusations of discriminatory policies and victimisation of Nigerian nationals are completely without merit. Since inception in 1969 and to date, the company has trained and employed more National pilots and engineers in the industry, and at very significant costs.
In addition, the salaries and benefits payable to the National pilots and engineers continue to be the highest in the market. The majority of the company’s pilots and engineers are Nigerian nationals, yet NAAPE seeks to paint a false narrative of a company with mostly foreign pilots and engineers. This is certainly not the case in Bristow!
In conclusion, the allegations raised by NAAPE are rejected in their entirety. The company notes that most of the issues being advanced by NAAPE are contrary to the provisions of the 2019 Agreement and the company will request that NAAPE complies with the terms of that agreement.
Notwithstanding NAAPE’s position, Bristow remains willing to engage and dialogue on the issues. It requests that NAAPE does the same.
Bristow is proud to provide a safe environment that promotes equity and places ability above mediocrity ensuring that Bristow’s Nigerian Pilots and Engineers remain among the best paid and best trained in the industry globally.
The Kwara state governor, Abdulfattah Ahmed, has taken delivery of additional two aircrafts in order to improve the training of pilots at the Ilorin international aviation college, and has also assured of his determination to make the institution one of the best in the world.
The college which was conceived by the previous government of Mr Bukola Saraki presently boasts of about 30 students while the Nigerian Air Force has indicated interest in the college to train its personnel.
The idea for the establishment of the aviation college was conceived and implemented by the Bukola Saraki led administration while the Abdulfattah led administration flagged off the resumption of academic and admitted the first set of twelve students eleven months ago.
As a result of the expansion and influx of the students due to the quality of training from the college, the state governor in one of his monthly programme tagged ‘Governor Explains’ announced the plan of government to procure more aircrafts as the present five prove inadequate.
Four months after the announcement, the state government has now taken delivery of additional two single engine aircrafts which have been duly registered and certified by the relevant authorities in the country.
At the Ilorin international Airport tarmac, the governor and some of his aides expressed joy as the two aircrafts landed at precisely 11:30am.
Governor Ahmed announced that 12 additional aircrafts are being expected for the college with the support of the federal government adding that about 25 air force officers are currently undergoing training at the college.
The head of training at the college Captain Abdulkareem Abdulmuhmeen said the aircrafts have been duly registered by the Nigerian Civil Aviation while the state commissioner for works, Amuda Kannike announced that the first set of students will soon graduate with the college producing the first youngest pilot in the country at the age of twenty one.