Kenya’s national airline, Kenya Airways, is threating disciplinary action against dozens of pilots, many who have taken sick leave to participate in what the company calls an illegal strike which grounded flights for a third day.

The airline’s chief executive officer, Allan Kilavuka, issued a statement Monday calling the strike illegal. Monday morning, 132 of the airline’s 400 pilots registered with the airline’s operations team as unfit to fly, meaning they called in sick.

Kilavuka said a collective bargaining agreement forbids the pilots from staying out of work for more than 48 hours and the pilots could face dismissal.

Separately, reports say officials from the pilots’ union – the Kenya Airlines Pilots Association, or KALPA – have been summoned to court Tuesday after failing to comply with orders not to launch the strike. The union has not responded to the summons.

The striking pilots walked off the job Saturday, saying airline management has refused to address their grievances. They are demanding the airline address issues over pensions and salaries.

The airline reported that 47 flights were canceled Monday, leaving some 12,000 passengers stranded. Management, however, says at least 2,000 of the stranded passengers have since left for various destinations as 23 pilots availed themselves for duty Monday.

Kenya Airways also issued a statement on its website, advising passengers against traveling to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport if their flights are not “in the operating schedule.” 

Kenyan newspaper Business Daily reports that the company has begun hiring captains and first officers, a move that could escalate the ongoing dispute.

Kenya’s national carrier flies more than 4 million passengers to 42 destinations annually, according to its records. The partially state-owned carrier, however, has had financial problems in recent years.

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