Kenya Airways pilots delay strike plan: union head

Kenya Airways planes are seen parked at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport near Kenya's capital Nairobi, April 28, 2016. Picture taken April 28, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Pilots at Kenya Airways have delayed plans to strike, the head of the pilots’ union said on Monday, after a court ruled the action illegal and the loss-making carrier said a stoppage would further hurt it.

The pilots’ union KALPA had called for an indefinite strike to start on Tuesday to protest against the management of the airline, which is part-owned by the government and Air France- KLM.

Paul Gichinga, Secretary General of the Kenya Airline Pilots Association (KAPA), said the union had held “fruitful discussions” with government officials over the impasse but that talks with company executives would still continue.

“We have taken the decision to defer the strike action to accommodate the ongoing negotiations,” he said in a statement, adding the decision did not mean the group was withdrawing its strike notice altogether.

“We emphasize that we are not retreating from our initial position – change for Kenya Airways can only be achieved with an overhaul in leadership.”

A Kenyan court issued an order on Friday restraining KAPLA from taking action.

The government, seeking to boost the carrier’s fortunes and support Kenya’s battered tourist industry, had called the action economic sabotage. The airline said last week it had reduced its losses and industrial action would damage the recovery.

“Although we agree on many things and actions to be taken, I am sure there will be others where we will not always be in agreement,” said the carrier’s director Michael Joseph, adding they would discuss to find ways to work together.

In a statement, the company said all operations would resume as per schedule on Tuesday.

Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Aaron Maasho and Richard Balmforth