NAIROBI – Hundreds of passengers on Wednesday missed their flights after aviation workers went on strike at several airports in Kenya, over job cut fears following over proposals two merge two airlines.
Dozens of local and international flights were canceled in various Kenyan airports, including the Jomo Kenyatta (JKIA) in capital Nairobi, which is one of the most important airports in East Africa, in addition to Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret.
The Kenya Aviation Workers Union (KAWU) called for a strike to protest a plan proposed by Kenya Airways, which currently suffers from economic losses, to take over JKIA, which is operated by the state-run Kenya Airport Authority (KAA), which would likely lead to the dismissal of several workers.
Passengers gathered outside the departure entrance of the capital’s airport, as they waited to be screened after being left stranded for hours, according to an epa-efe photojournalist.
Around 11.30 am, the situation started to return to normal at the JKIA, as passengers boarded their planes, thanks to the support of the Kenyan Air Force.
The protesting workers were later dispersed by Kenyan riot police using teargas.
Kenyan transport minister, James Macharia, headed to Nairobi’s airport to evaluate the situation, describing the strike as a criminal act.
“Nobody has refused to pay your salary, nobody has given a threat that your job is at risk,” Macharia said. “This is therefore malicious, economic sabotage and a criminal activity.”
The minister said that 80 percent of the affected flights were international.
Meanwhile, Kenyan police arrested the KAWU Secretary General, Moss Ndiema, at the Jomo Kenyatta airport, as he was considered responsible for promoting for the strike.
“It is regrettable and unfortunate, and KAWU will have to answer for it,” the minister said.
For his part, Kenya Airways CEO Sebastian Mikosz issued an official statement warning the workers who were engaging in the strike from the consequences of their disorder, according to Kenyan press.
The local media outlets also quoted Macharia as saying: “If you do not want to work stay at home. We have many people out there looking for jobs; we will pay your pensions and employ other people.”