Monday, August 17, 2009

Kenya News Update: Aviation and Allied Workers Union Ends Strike; Worst Agricultural Crisis Since Independence

Kenya: Kenya Airways Staff Call Off Strike

Joy Wanja
17 August 2009

Nairobi — Kenya Airways (KQ) workers have called off their strike, after reaching an agreement of an interim 20 per cent salary increment with the airline's management.

This followed a series of meetings held on Saturday between the Aviation and Allied Workers Union, representing the workers, and KQ management. Consequently, all staff were required to return to work yesterday by 6 pm.

The agreement also includes the withdrawal of all dismissal letters sent to the striking workers on Saturday. A pending court case on the dispute will be withdrawn during the appearance today.

The parties also agreed that there would be no victimisation of either group. The pay agreement will be staggered in two phases, 10 per cent of which will be paid this year and the remainder next year

On Saturday night, trade union officials and KQ management were locked in tense negotiations to resolve the deadlock that could have taken a huge toll on the reputation of the national carrier and cost the economy millions of shillings.

The two groups held a joint press conference yesterday morning at a Nairobi hotel to announce the return to work formula following the negotiations that had been mediated by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) and Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE)

The national flag carrier will now to grapple with the daunting task of reducing the backlog of passengers whose travel plans had been affected by the three-day workers' strike.

"There are no losers or winners, what we have given is the best solution to the crisis," Dr Naikuni said in a news conference at the Stanley hotel.

While announcing the decision to call off the strike, Aviation and Allied Workers union General secretary Mr Jimmy Masege accepted the interim package and called for the need for urgent job evaluations for union members.

"The dust has settled so be free to go to work," said Mr Masege, adding he would involve COTU and FKE in future negotiations with the airline.

However, Mr Masege defended the 130 per cent demand saying with the recent shift in the economy, the staff had reason to ask for the pay.

Kenyan airline staff end strike

By TOM ODULA,08.16.09, 01:16 PM EDT

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Kenya Airways staff ended their strike on Sunday after their union and the airline's management agreed on a pay raise, ending an action that had caused flight cancellations and left passengers stranded across Africa.

All striking workers returned to work immediately, said Jimmy Masege, the secretary general of the Kenya Aviation and Allied Workers Union.

Staff will receive a 20 percent pay raise, split equally over two years, said Kenya Airways and the union in a joint statement Sunday. That is far lower than the 80 percent the union had demanded, and only slightly higher than the 18 percent management had offered before the strike began Friday.

"It was this or nothing. The company, however, agreed to review the increase after a six-month period," Masege told The Associated Press.

The statement also said Kenya Airways' management has agreed to withdraw dismissal letters it issued Saturday and stop court cases against staff.

The strike by flight attendants, engineers and other ground staff had crippled one of the few airlines that flies to all parts of Africa. It was the first strike in Kenya Airways' 32-year history.

Kenya: Airline, Workers Agree to 20 Per Cent Pay Rise

Wangui Maina
17 August 2009

Kenya Airways management on Sunday sighed with relief after it reached a back-to-work agreement with the Aviation and Allied Workers Union, saving the company further losses.

After two days of the airline grounding its operations due to a strike by union members, the two parties agreed to a 20 per cent salary increase that will be staggered over two years. The airline also withdrew over 50 dismissal letters it had issued.

"The airline is a major player in international arrivals and had the strike lasted longer it would have frustrated potential tourists," Tourism minister Najib Balala said in a phone interview.

During a Press conference to announce the accord, however, Kenya Airways chief executive Titus Naikuni and AAWU secretary-general, Jimi Masege, said some issues were yet to be resolved.

These include job evaluations that will lead to a new structure for unionisable employees that will be completed by April next year.

The impasse between the airline and the union over staff salaries dealt the airline a major blow just as passenger numbers started to pick due to the high travelling season.

Mr Naikuni now has to clear the backlog of passengers who were left stranded in various points due to flight cancellations.

"We are not out of the woods yet as the backlog to West Africa is especially huge," he said.

The airline intended to mobilise its fleet, according priority to the hard-hit areas and regional routes that are the carrier's cash cow as soon as the workers resumed duties last evening.

Since April this year, the two parties have been in negotiations, with over 25 meetings being held. However, talks stalled last Thursday after the Union insisted on a 130 per cent pay increase, ten times the 13 per cent that the airline had put on the table.

The strike started on Friday causing nine flights to be cancelled with more being grounded on Saturday.

Though Mr Naikuni could not quantify the financial impact the impasse would have on the airline's business, it is expected the situation will have a significant impact on its revenues for this financial year.

The new agreement is expected to thin the airline's decreasing operating margins further due to an increased wage bill that is estimated to cost Sh900 million for the two years the collective bargain agreement (CBA) covers.

The amount includes basic salaries and allowances.

Currently the airline's wage bill stands at Sh5 billion.

The union had initially demanded a 130 per cent for its 3,465 members in the airline, 26 per cent of the wage bill, which could have seen the bill increase to Sh8.5 billion. The airline had initially offered an eight per cent increase.

The airline also suffered losses arising from revenue opportunities and compensating passengers inconvenienced by the strike.

Kenya: How Did Country Come to This Pass?

17 August 2009

Nairobi — Kenya is going through its worst weather-related crisis since independence. The rains have failed for four years in a row, and 10 million people -- a quarter of the population -- are now in need of food aid.

Water levels in dams on the Tana, where the bulk of the country's electricity is generated, are at their lowest in 60 years and a punishing power rationing regime is in place.

In the national parks, wild animals are dying in their thousands of starvation, while in the country's cities and towns homes are going without water for weeks, even as food prices climb ever higher.

Just how did things become so bad? And how can Kenya avoid similar emergencies in the future? There is, obviously, no single silver bullet to end the emergency.

The situation, after all, has come about due to the confluence of several complex factors including global warming, environmental degradation, poor government planning and failure to innovate.

For Kenya to avoid a similar humanitarian emergency in the future, the country must adopt well-thought out multisectoral programmes that mitigate these challenges.

In this new proactive regime, environmental conservation and restoration of water towers such as the Mau, Mt Kenya and the Aberdares must, for example, go hand in hand with better public policies on water harvesting and irrigation.

It is ridiculous, for example, that in Nairobi city by-laws prohibit residents from harvesting rainwater, despite the fact that the City Council itself cannot satisfy demand.

Similarly, in the power sector, Kenya must rationalise its generation mix to relieve pressure on hydro sources, which account for nearly 70 per cent of the country's capacity.

In agriculture, programmes promoting good seed and stock husbandry must go together with efforts to improve farmer education, crop diversification and market dynamics. This should help reduce Kenya's reliance on one crop -- maize -- which takes too long to mature and is highly vulnerable to rain patterns.

On the international arena, Kenya must add its voice to those forces calling for a reduction in the production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that cause global warming.

It is unacceptable that the developed world continues to spew millions of tonnes of these gases into the atmosphere while poor countries suffer the effects of higher global temperatures such as extreme weather, drought and famine.

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