Demonstrations rock Mombasa EPZ over insecurity

Simba Apparel Export Processing Zone workers protest outside the Factory at Changamwe in Mombasa County. (Photo Omondi Onyango/Standard)
Workers at a garment firm based at Changamwe Export Processing Zone staged a demonstration on Monday over a lockout.

The more than 2100 employees of the Simba Apparel EPZ unit one said they were on a go-slow since Monday last week to protest against the alleged gang in the factory terrorizing staff.

Workers who spoke to the Standard Digital said the gang was armed with knives, hammers and pangas and had injured some staff because of demands for an election of union officials they had made since July this year.

At the same time, the workers demanded their jobs back saying it was unfair for management to shut down the factory abruptly.

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Police guarded the factory on Tuesday as the workers demonstrated along the Kenya Petroleum Refinery road.

A notice posted at the gate by management said the factory had been closed indefinitely owing to the unrest.

The management stated in the notice that the workers had not honoured a return to work formula signed between them and officials of the Tailors and Textile Workers Union.

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But the chief shop steward Meshack Mwangangi said they had called the strike because the gang alleged to be harassing workers had not been removed from the workplace.

“We reported the gang to the police but it is still operating and threatening other workers,” Mwangangi said.

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He added, "What we have witnessed today is a lockout. We have not refused to work except that we have raised pertinent issues of insecurity at the factory which we want to be addressed.”

Mwangangi said the workers want their jobs back and demand that their security be guaranteed.

On Sunday, the management said it had decided to shut down the factory and sack the workers after they went on strike for seven days occasioning losses running into Sh20 million due to failure to export 100,000 garments to the US.

“We decided to shut down the factory because the workers have refused to honour two return to work agreements we signed with their representatives,” said the firm in a statement.

The management said the workers have been staging an illegal strike since September 9 following an internal fight between two shop stewards.

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EPZChangamweSpecial Economic Zone