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Dock workers polls rocked by wrangles

Dock Workers Union General Secretary Simon Sang (right) and executive board member Julius Nyandiko. [File, Standard]

Candidates for the Dock Workers Union (DWU) general secretary post yesterday took a swipe at each other as the campaigns for the May 20 elections hit the homestretch.

As some candidates called for the postponement of the polls, General Secretary Simon Sang cancelled an earlier arrangement to have the County Labour Officer run the polls.

In a letter dated May 8, Sang said the last DWU National Executive Committee re-defined the role of the returning officer, saying the labour officer can oversee the election but not run it. He said the polls would now be conducted by an election board as directed by the registrar of trade unions.

“The election board under the chairmanship of Martin Oindo, you need to work with them as a team. His team will do logistical matters in full, which you are not privy to such as developing voting registers, identifying polling stations, and conducting an election,” said Sang.

He added that election clerks would be sourced from Kenya Ports Authority (KPA). This has drawn both criticism and support from the other candidates.

Yesterday, Omar Masumbuko, a candidate for the GS post, criticised Sang for “trying to change the rules in the middle of the game”.

“The team lead by Sang has failed workers. It is during his reign that workers lost overtime allowances and he also failed to push for workers’ pay raise,” said Masumbuko.

Since last year, KPA has been restricting the overtime allowance to 30 per cent of monthly salaries, hence reducing the port workers’ take-home package.

Sang, however, said the issue of overtime would be addressed after the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) is signed on May 16 by the union.

The CBA gives the over 4,400 unionisable staff a 10 per cent pay rise to be backdated to 16 months. The Salary and Remuneration Commission has, however, raised an objection saying KPA’s cash flow cannot sustain the pay rise. 

Another aspirant, Harry Arigi, said elections should be postponed because they coincide with the May 20 official launch of the Lamu Port. He said some of the union members will be busy.

“Several union members who are eligible to vote will be engaged in Lamu. We need all members to participate in this important exercise,” said Arigi. 

Other aspirants are former head of container operations at the port Edward Opiyo and Mikindani MCA, who is also former chief shop steward Renson Thoya, Abubakar Mohamed, Said Chande, Alphaeus Aluoch, Jorum Kiilu, Ezra Okong’o and Fatuma Mbule.

Majengo Warrah, Siyat Abdullahi, Moses Abebe, Kanga Maganga, Athman Athman, Mohamed Mabanda, Mohamed Ibrahim and Adenan Ondieki are also eyeing the seat.

Meanwhile, all the KPA employees interested in the DWU seats have taken leave to participate in the election, and in case they are defeated they will still have their jobs.

Masumbuko, a Shop Steward Council Secretary who works in logistics, confirmed that he had taken leave to campaign. “Sang has failed to protect the workers from exploitation. He has been unable to address the issue of workers’ overtime payment,” Masumbuko said.

But Sang dismissed Masumbuko’s claims, saying he had fought many battles to improve the welfare of KPA workers. He said since he took over the DWU leadership the workers have been the best-paid employees in the country.

The union boss insisted that he was fighting to have the CBA registered and fully implemented, adding, “I want to concentrate and not engage in petty claims from my opponents”. 

“I have not been campaigning because I want to make sure the CBA award of 10 per cent salary increment for my members is paid,” said Sang.  

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