East African carrier, Kenya Airways, has sacked 22 out of its 26 Nigerian employees for what it termed redundancy.

A source close to the airline disclosed on condition of anonymity that the affected workers were sent packing on Friday, April 13.

According to the source, the sacked staff were escorted out of the airline’s office premises in Lagos by police officers to prevent possible breakdown of law and order.

After the purging exercise, only four of its Nigerian staff, including the Country Manager, Mr. Afeez Balogun, and there others were retained by the management of the airline.

The source confided further that the affected staff were each paid one month’s salary after their disengagement by the management, a situation the industry unions are already frowning at.

Business Eye gathered that the sack of the workers happened when the airline was still negotiating the new condition of service with the industry unions.

The source alleged further that the carrier’s management took the decision without taking into consideration the Nigeria labour laws, which provisions were against unilateral decision by employers when disengaging workers.

It was learnt that plans had also reached an advanced stage by the management to replace the sacked workers with casual workers, as it has already contracted engagement of new workers to a General Sales Agent (GSA) in the country.

Following the sack, the industry organized labour unions may disrupt the flight operations of the airline today, as the unions had threatened to picket the airline.

Comrade Olayinka Abioye
Comrade Olayinka Abioye

The General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE), Comrade Olayinka Abioye, confirmed the sack of the 22 workers, and said that NUATE with other unions in the sector would not allow the seeming injustice go unchallenged.

According to him, the sack of 22 Nigerian 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 explained: “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, but 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 had engaged another GSA already,” Abioye added.

The labour leader explained further that the unions had informed the Director-General of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Capt. Muhtar Usman, of the unions’ intention to picket the operations of the airline any moment from now.

He said 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.