Port worker sacked for joining trade union

Thomas Kambi Obumbi who was allegedly sacked for joining a trade union. (Omondi Onyango, Standard)
Trade Unions in Mombasa are contemplating taking legal action against a sub-contractor for a global shipping giant operating at the Port of Mombasa after it sacked a worker for joining a trade union.

Thomas Kambi Obumbi, 51 who worked for Island Marine Services Limited, listed as a sub-contractor for a Danish owned global shipping company, Maersk was given matching orders after he led a group of fellow workers to enlist as members of the Kenya Shipping, Clearing, Freight, Logistics & Warehousing Workers Union (KSFLWWU).

Island Marine Services Limited offers tally clerks, planning officers, supervisors, watchmen, tracers, stuffing, stripping, lashing and unlashing containers and trucks, garbage collection, sludge, painting, lining and cleaning gang services.

Leading online Danish news website, Danwatch last year carried an exclusive interview with Obumbi during an investigative interview over poor working conditions for Maersk sub-contractors at the Port of Mombasa.

Obumbi was an important source of Danwatch's disclosure of the miserable working conditions that led to Danish authorities to order for investigations.

A sobbing Obumbi who was flanked by officials from KSFLWWU, Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK) and Forum for International Cooperation (FIC)) officials said that he was removed from his work for attempting to better the working environment for fellow workers.

''I was given a letter by the Managing Director for Island Marine Services Limited on August 15, 2019, a day after I had drawn out a list of 15 other staffs who had shown willingness to join the union,'' he said at the Missions to Seafarers Centre, Mombasa.

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In the letter, a copy of which is in possession of The Standard, Island Marine Service Limited Managing Director, Mr Hamisi Ali cites work performance as reason for his termination.

''I am in total disagreement with the reason for my termination being poor performance. I have been in this business for over two decades and I even rose to the position of a foreman,'' he said.

During his earlier interview with Danwatch at the Port of Mombasa in 2018, Obumbi spoke of an hourly wage of Sh250 per shift and how they would spend the night in mosquito infested quayside at the Port.

Hamisi, Obumbi's boss maintains in an interview with Danwatch that they had no problem with anyone joining a union.

''For Obumbi's case, he was fired because of poor performance. He has not convinced us that he can deliver. He is 64 and our work is very demanding and he never had good working relationship with his colleagues,'' Hamisi told Danwatch.

But KSFLWWU Project Coordinator for Decent Work, Mr Boniface Mugoya said that they were working with FIC whose mandate includes among others to promote decent work for labourers in East Africa to have Obumbi duly compensated for wrongful dismissal from work.

''The reasons being given as to why he was sent packing are not adding up. We are headed for the courts to get fair justice for our member,'' Mugoya said.

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