By Davis Mwandawiro
In the wake of the last day of June 2015, work the busiest port in East and Central Africa, Mombasa came to a standstill. All of its 6000 dock workers downed their tools in solidarity with other trade unions against the new National Hospital and Insurance Fund (NHIF) levies imposed on them without their approval. It was the same commotion at the Ferry Services in Likoni as its 200 workers also joined in the strike forcing the local managers to step in and handle the mammoth task of billing cars getting into the ferry.
About 500 containers are offloaded from ships on a daily basis hence it was a major inconvenience to the many exporters and importers that rely on the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). With trucks that pick up an average of 1000 containers daily, drivers were left stranded along Mikindani-Changamwe road siting their complaints.
Mr William Kidima, the business representative for Uganda at the port, said it was not easy to quantify the losses.
“If this goes for two days we may have to ask (the) KPA to waive charges for us because it is not our fault that cargo remains at the port while it’s supposed to be cleared,” he said.
Later in the week, posters went all around the county of Mombasa asking people to apply for the impending KPA jobs since the management had threatened to have all those who didn’t comply sacked. These were shared by leaders in the county among them Mvita M.P Abdulswamad Nasir. Thousands of job seekers were on Saturday turned away by the Kenya Ports Authority where they were seeking employment opportunities.
It was reported that there was stampede as more than 3,000 people turned up from as early as 4 am and jammed the KPA college compound for the interviews. Some were injured and attended to by emergency medical personnel. Kenya Ports Authority managing director Gichiri Ndua said they intended to keep a database of qualified individuals who they would call upon if the need arises. He also revealed that businesses in East Africa had lost more than Sh1 billion as a result of the two-day strike at the Mombasa port.
“We will rely on the database to bring on board qualified employees when there is need,” said Mr Ndua.
KPA then went further and evicted the workers from their houses with no notice prompting the workers to go to court. On the July 7th, the Industrial Court ordered 20 workers to go back to their homes after they had been sacked.
The court ruled that the sacked workers will remain in the staff houses until their case is concluded after the workers went to court on Tuesday to challenge their dismissal and eviction from staff houses in Makupa, High Level, Mbaraki and other estates in Mombasa.
The judge directed the parties to appear before him for the next hearing on July 24th. The complainants are hoping the court will declare their termination unlawful and unconstitutional and want to be immediately reinstated.