James Macharia
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
Kamal Vekaria
Kenya Airways
Kenya Defence Forces
Meshack Kipturgo
Naomi Ndugu
Radio Africa Group
Siginon Group
The Kenya Aviation Workers Union

Chaos, losses in airport workers strike

Passengers endured long wait while airlines and businesses counted huge losses as a strike by aviation workers paralysed operations at the country’s main airports on Wednesday.

The Kenya Aviation Workers Union (Kawu) members downed their tools protesting against alleged unfair staff hiring, poor remuneration and the proposed takeover of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) operations by Kenya Airways #ticker:KQ.

Take-off flights were cancelled while no plane had landed at JKIA as at 11 am, with a RwandAir plane that was scheduled to pick up passengers leaving empty.

Most travellers milled around the airport waiting to know the fate of their flights, as the government called in Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) troops to man operations at JKIA.

“We were heading to Mombasa to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Unfortunately, we have been stuck here since 6 a.m. This is annoying,” said Radio Africa Group head of innovation Kamal Vekaria.

“I have been here since 4 a.m. This situation is inconveniencing,” said Naomi Ndugu.

National carrier Kenya Airways, which is the most heavily affected by the strike, in a court filing said it was losing Sh300 million revenue daily.

Siginon Group managing director Meshack Kipturgo said he could not immediately quantify the losses incurred. “It was more about inconvenience to cargo operators like us,” he said.

Transport Secretary James Macharia, who was at the airport for the better part of the day, branded the striking aviation workers “criminals”.

Mr Macharia maintained that the boycott was illegal and threatened to sack the striking employees.

He said the workers were sabotaging the economy by engaging in a strike against the order of the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

“We cannot allow a bunch of criminals to inconvenience hard working Kenyans going about their normal duties. We are working round the clock to ensure normal operations resumes,” said Mr Macharia.

He noted that despite the disruption, 93 percent of passengers had departed or were scheduled to depart later in the day.

“Operations have progressively gone back to normalcy. We sincerely apologise for the interruptions,” he said.

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