The Star (Nairobi)

3 November 2012

Kenya: Ferry Users Stuck As Dockers Begin Go-Slow

COMMUTERS and motorists were yesterday stranded at the Likoni Ferry Crossing Channel after services were paralysed. Likoni ferry workers went on strike causing a traffic snarl up on both sides of the crossing channel.

The channel is the main connection between Mombasa island and the South Coast and serves more than 2 million people and 60,000 vehicles every day. The employees who are members of the dock workers union went on strike over stalled negotiations on a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the management.

They are demanding Sh1.08 billion promised by the government four years ago. Only two ferries, MV Nyayo and MV Kwale, were operating from 6am.

However, the two ferries stopped midstream for more than an hour and were pulled by a coxswain at 8am. Speaking at the Mbaraki wharf, Kenya Ferry Services Dock Workers Union branch secretary general Godfrey Ochola said the ferry management had failed in their responsibility.

"The management has failed to demand the money from government therefore we have decided to stop working until the government fulfills our needs," said Ochola.

The striking workers demanded the sacking of the top KFS officials for their poor performance. "The strike is still on until our demands are met," said Ochola.

Efforts by Makadara MP Mike Sonko to intervene proved futile after the ferry workers refused to listen to him. Sonko was travelling from Mombasa to the South Coast. Commercial boat operators were warned against ferrying passengers.

Patients referred to the Coast Provincial General Hospital were inconvenienced. A family had to hire a private boat to ferry the body of a deceased member.

Non-union members have threatened to join the strike if the stalemate is not addressed. They also demand for a collective bargain agreement. KFS managing director Musa Hassan said the management is working on the issues. Speaking to the Star on phone Musa said the salary process takes time to implement. "We are trying to solve the current situation and see ferries operate without a hitch. We shall then address their demands," said Musa.

This is the second strike to hit the Mombasa dock this week. On Thursday, workers at the Mombasa Port paralysed operations demanding to be employed on a permanent and pensionable basis.

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