10 November 2012

Kenya: Workers' Strike Grounds Operations at Mombasa

Nairobi — Operations at the port of Mombasa have been grounded following a biting strike that kicked off last week over dishonored employment terms between the management and staff.

Over 3,000 workers at the facility downed their tools after the expiry of a 21-day ultimatum served to the management a couple of weeks ago.

Among other things, the workers were protesting the failure by management to honor an agreement entered last year of converting their employment terms from contractual to permanent terms.

The strike will have far reaching implications on the economy of not only Kenya but other regional economies that depend on the port for their supplies and other imports. These countries include Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and DR Congo among others.A spot check at the port by media revealed piles of cargo, stationery cranes and general unruliness among thousands of workers. All the while, the management remained holed up in what was termed 'emergency meetings'. Last year, the workers entered into an agreement with the employers (Kenya Ports Authority) after tripartite talks brokered by the Kenyan Ministry of Labour where it was agreed among other things that their employment terms would change.

The deadline for receiving the letters confirming the permanent employment was last Tuesday and it went without word prompting the workers to go on strike.

"I can assure you that we will not be resuming duty and no meaningful activity will take place at this port unless we receive out letters to the last person. Nothing has ever worked in this port without industrial action and we are more than happy to continue with the strike," said Jeffer Kiti that Chairman of the Dock Workers Union. According to Simon Sang, the Secretary of the Union, the government under the Ministry of Transport has been siding with the management to dwarf efforts by the workers to fight for better working conditions.

"The Minister for Transport, Amos Kimunya is one of the worst things that happened to the transport ministry in Kenya. Instead of offering solutions, he is part of the problem, always standing in the way of reforms at the port," said Sang.

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