Worker Strike Paralyzes Nairobi’s International Airport

 - March 6, 2019, 9:11 AM

Staff members of Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) went on strike in the early morning of March 6 in protest of the proposed takeover of the airport by Kenya Airways (KQ), irregularities in employee recruitment, and poor pay.    

The action by ground staff, cargo operators, and other airport workers disrupted most flights scheduled for Wednesday morning. Workers in duty-free jobs have also joined the strike.

Kenya Airways has advised all its outbound passengers scheduled to fly starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday not to go to the airport until further communication.

In a press statement, the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) said it would take measures to ensure normalcy returns. The authority advised all passengers to contact their respective airlines about their travel arrangements.

The Kenya Aviation Workers Union, which counts a membership of about 10,000, a quarter of whom are Kenya Airways employees, said that the strike will continue until the managers of the authority and the national carrier quit their posts. “We have withdrawn all our services ranging from security, to air traffic control, to customer care, to ground flight services, to equipment operations,” said Moss Ndiema, secretary general of the union.

Kenya Airways recently proposed to the government that it take over and administer JKIA. The plan encountered furious protest from airport employees and members of parliament. In August 2017, the Ethiopian government merged Ethiopian Airport Enterprise with Ethiopian Airlines Aviation Group. Ethiopian Airlines’ archrival, Kenya Airways, now wants to follow suit. The Kenyan parliament tabled the issue following strong resistance from members.        

JKIA serves as Kenya Airways’ hub and hosts many other international carriers, including British Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, RwandAir, Emirates, South African Airways, and Turkish Airlines. JKIA ranks as the busiest airport in East Africa and the sixth busiest in Africa.