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Dock Workers Embroiled In A Tussle With KPA Over Privatisation Of Port Of Mombasa

The port of Mombasa. [PHOTO/ COURTESY]

Dock workers through their union have threatened to move to court once again to stop privatisation of two berths of Port of Mombasa and outsourcing of labour by the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA).

In a statement to newsrooms,  the Dock Workers Union gave KPA 21 days to stop privatisation of berths number 4 and number 7 of the Port of Mombasa, which they say is being done without following the law.

It is alleged that the government through KPA has started the transfer of 75 percent of the Port to the hands of not more than four families.

According to the workers, berth number four takes a huge part of business of the Port, hence its takeover would leave the Port of Mombasa with little of the much required revenue for expansion and maintenance.

Read: 3 Court of Appeal Judges Withdraw From Case On Mombasa Port Management

Berth number seven has already been leased out, and they are in the process of installing permanent bagging equipment which will result in a takeover of 50 percent of the conventional cargo operations.

“Since the two were not subjected to Public Participation, the Union has no choice but to go to court for redress if Management will not stop them,” read the statement in part.

The companies that are planning to acquire the Port include Portside Ltd, Grain Bulk Handlers Ltd and Merchantile Company Ltd. The planned takeovers were made during the time of the former Managing Director Daniel Manduku who was forced out due to corruption allegations in the body.

Labour for verification at the inland Container Deport (ICD) Nairobi was also outsourced from Merchantile Trading Company, a company associated with Abdulswamad Nassir, the Chairman of Public Investment Committee in Parliament.

Read: Retrenchment Looms As Gov’t Mulls Privatisating One Of Mombasa Port Terminals

“We have written to KPA on the same on two occasions. At this stage we have no choice on this other than to go to court to report this matter as a corruption matters,” said the workers.

They say that private companies will not give employees decent and favourable terms and conditions of employment.

“When the Union visited berth number seven (7) we witnessed workers working barefooted on corrosive substances- fertilizers. This is how private companies exploit Kenyans with the aim of maximizing profits. Under private hands, workers are not given insurance, pension, house allowance, medical scheme and permanent working arrangement.

The union wants the government within 21 days to declare privatization or outsourcing of the said labour illegal by writing to those currently involved that their contracts are revoked with immediate effect.

Read: President Uhuru Denies Kenya Using Mombasa Port As Collateral

They also want all cargo in all shipping lines handled by labourers from KPA, and no other labourers outsourced by any company.

“We have therefore given Kenya Ports Authority 21 days to Make it known to the Union and Kenya under what terms Portside has leased shed no. seven and to revoke any further lease with immediate effect. This is because Kenya Ports Authority Management has overstepped their mandate by using leasing using as a conduit to privatizing the facility,” concluded the statement.

President Uhuru Kenyatta had on July 5, 2019 assented to law that amended the shipping Bill that would see Kenya National Shipping Line (KNLS), which is partly owned by the Swiss registered Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), and the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) run berth number two, estimated to be worth Ksh30 billion.

However, in a ruling on October 4, 2019, the High Court declared the move unconstitutional.

“The amended section 16 act of the Merchant Shipping Act that introduced section 16 (1) (a) violates articles 10 and 118 of the Constitution and is unconstitutional, null and void,” said Justice Ogola.

The High Court noted that the state failed to adhere to the constitutional principles of transparency, openness and public involvement while making the deal.

It was also found that government signed an MOU secretly and failed to publish the same within the stipulated seven days.

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Written by Francis Muli

Senior reporter at Kahawa Tungu, Muli has a passion for human interest stories. Believes in unearthing societal rots that have been hidden from the public eye.
Follow me on Twitter @FmuliKE. Email francis@kahawatungu.com

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