Aug 02 2012
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Why 'KAC' Is In Nosedive?
KUWAIT CITY, Aug 2
Following recent events and developments surrounding the national carrier, the President of the Kuwait Airways Workers' Union, Abdullah Al-Hajeri, held a meeting at his diwaniya on Wednesday evening to discuss the direction in which the company is heading.
The meeting saw several speeches by various prominent figures and largely focused on the prospect of privatization, and the possibilities on that front. Al-Hajeri began by stating that there has been a general neglect of the rights of workers, and that he hoped to address this through a deal with board member Mohammed Al-Hallal, and Minister of Communications, Salem Al-Uthainah.
He indicated that KD 30 million was being paid annually for the maintenance of aircraft, and that it is imperative that new planes be rented now, and that a solution be found, adding that the workers' rights are a red line that cannot be crossed, and that something must be done to guarantee workers a secure retirement, some of whom have worked in the company for 35 years. He indicated that he has very important information about manipulations occurring from board members in terms of the workers' rights, with a foreign consultant who is paid off to overlook these.
He was followed by former Minister of Communications, Captain Sami Al-Nisf who stated that he fully supports the rights of the KAC workers, and expressed concern over the fact that no one had spoken of Law No. 6 of 2008, despite its having been passed four years ago. He stressed the importance of maintaining the foundation, and that this is a requisite of job security, stating that "if we disagree over the airlines, then we all lose." He also stressed that future plans must include a strategy to develop and grow the company, and ensure the rights and livelihoods of its workers.
He stated that any plans to privatize must first deal with the needs of the employees, as the degree to which their rights are secured reflects on the way the company runs. He added that what regulates whether a company makes gains or losses is the quality of the aircraft, and that the losses to the company constitute losses for employees, who have the right to fear for the wellbeing of the company, as well as their own wellbeing by extension.
He insisted that the company belongs neither to the government, nor should it belong to private companies, but that "the true and only owners of Kuwait Airweays are the people!" He added that in the past, KAC had been making up to KD 8 million in losses, urging the question of how a company that is losing so much money can be resold. He stated that the only solution for the company at this point is privatization, and that it is the only remaining strategic option.
Former opposition MP AbdulRahman Al-Anjari attributed the downfall of the company to deep political corruption. He stated that KAC was run on political motives, rather than being run as a business, and that these political pressures on the company are preventing it from developing and growing as neighboring national carriers have. He pointed to Qatar and Dubai, and their ability in a few short years to make their airports major hubs in the region. He stressed the importance of running the company with a very business-oriented approach, and not allowing personal or political baggage to get in the way of allowing it to reach its full potential.
He added that the airlines has only 14 aircraft, all of which have surpassed 20 years, whilst neighboring countries' planes are no older than 4 years old. He stated that during his time in the Financial Bureau at the National Assembly, there were those who requested the Minister of Communications to either quicken the privatization process, or order the rental of 10 new planes, post-haste.
Former MP Musallam Al-Barrak then went on to state that on various occasions the government had repeatedly broken promises after reaching signed agreement with the workers' union, pointing to the events surrounding the strikes earlier this year. He stated that KAC's problem is not that it is a publicly owned company, as there are various publicly owned carriers in neighboring countries that have done very well. He said that there have been those who claimed that the reason for KAC's failure is the interference of certain MPs in the employment of certain figures in the company. He strongly refuted this, challenging anyone form the airlines, including Al-Hajeri himself, to come up and make a statement that any MP had interfered, if this were true.
He added that the "Airbus" center is known to Kuwaitis, and that the owner of the center is one of the leaders of KAC, and that the issue was simply a struggle of means between two of the company's leadership, and each one is the representative of competing companies. He added that when there had been talks of renewing the fleet, it was Sheikh Talal, requesting that he stand up in a public debate to address this. He stated that Ahmed Al-Falah, who had previously never allowed any claims against the company, had made a statement one day saying that a KAC plane could fall any second, whilst on the same day the Minister of Communications stated that maintenance of the carrier was perfect.
He stated that employment has always occurred on friendships and ties rather than capacity, but that this nonetheless was the weakest excuse for the current situation, stressing the great importance of moving the affairs of government and Parliament away from the company. He added that the desire to privatize the company came from a desire to turn over its finances to scrutiny from the government and Parliament, and that the company had been purposely driven to the ground to be handed over to the people of their choosing for next to nothing.
He further emphasized this, stating that they have been planning down to the date, the privatization of the company, placing all his bets on two names that he knew, which he believed without a doubt would be taking over. He ended, promising that, should he be elected for Parliament again, that issue would be on the top of his list of issues to deal with.
Next, Hassan Jowhar spoke, stating that it was with difficulty and embarrassment that one now speaks of KAC's state of affairs. He affirmed that in his time at Parliament, stating that the budgeting they had suggested had been denied for 7 consecutive years, an unprecedented act in comparison with other companies.
He stated that there had been a privatization plan by the government since 2008, of which the first stage was to be completed by 2010, and questioning "why are laws not being abided by?"
He concluded by stating that the current situation of the airline cannot handle much more, and that the solution would be to organize a strike demanding the immediate steps towards privatization, as this is the only way to get the government to respond, as the issue now has gotten to the point where people's lives are at risk, and should disaster strike, this would be deeply tragic for the people of Kuwait.
As for Khaled Al-Tahous, he reiterated the concerns over why the company hadn't been privatized since 2008, and why the blame was being placed on MPs, stating that there are two camps, one which wants to destroy the airlines, and one that wishes to repair it, and that the former had broken all its promises. He stated to those who claimed that MPs were against renting planes, that he was saying right there to go rent planes and save potential lives. He concluded by stating that he had heard of plans to turn the company over to the Public Authority for Investment, warning the Minister of Communications and Prime Minister of any trespassing on the rights of the employees, stating that he would remain forever on the side of the workers.
Finally, former MP Captain Abdullah Al-Ajmi, who stated that it is unfair to compare KAC to Qatar Airways or others, as it has faced limitations and institutions that bind the progressive steps by the board-members, and budgets take years to come. He indicated his support for a decree of necessity to resolve the situation of the company, stating that it applies to the case of KAC. He pointed out that it is group effort that solves crises, adding that they must all work together so that the government doesn't fall to fault again and require steps to hold it accountable in the next Parliament. He concluded by saying that the "Blue Bird" should not continue to be run with the same damaged mentality, adding that he requested Al-Uthainah and the prime minister to take steps to resolve the situation. The evening was concluded with a sohour buffet.
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