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Sea workers petition Parliament over exploitation by shipping firms

By Philip Mwakio | March 8th 2017

Parliament has been asked to push for better pay for people working for local ship contractors in Mombasa.

The Kenya Ships Contractors Association (KSCA), in a petition to Parliament through Mvita MP Abdulswamad Shariff Nassir, said those working for the ship contractors are paid very little by foreign shipping lines.

At the same time, KSCA, the sector's lobby group, also wants Parliament to enact laws to bar foreign shipping lines from opening subsidiary firms, which it said have edged out Kenyan-owned ship contractors.

Nassir said he had petitioned Parliament over the grievances of the ship contractors, who employ more than 4,000 workers, including seafarers.

The legislator also said he has filed a Bill in Parliament seeking to provide a better legislative mechanism for the employment of more Kenyan citizens as opposed to foreigners within the country's territorial waters and another to provide legislative safeguards on minimum wages to ship contractors by shipping lines to avoid exploitation of workers.

Addressing KSCA officials in his Mombasa office yesterday, the MP said National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has placed the petition before the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and expressed optimism that workers hired by ship contractors would soon get better pay.

unfair competition

KSCA Chairman Richard Jefwa, Secretary Fredrick Ochiel, and Treasurer Mohamed Ali met the MP to receive an update on the petition forwarded to the House to address the alleged exploitation and unfair competition by shipping lines.

Nassir said stakeholders, who include the Kenya Ships Agents Association, which represents the shipping lines, and members of KSCA will be given an opportunity to appear before the committee in an effort to resolve the matter.

"You will soon be called to appear before the Parliamentary Transport Committee together with other stakeholders to shed light on your petition and I will accompany you. It is unfortunate that a number of shipping lines have formed subsidiary ship contractor companies that are foreign-owned to edge out local ship contractors," Nassir complained.

He added that although another MP was lobbying for shipping lines to dominate the ship contracting business at the port, he was hopeful that most members of the Transport Committee would back local contractors, whose jobs were being taken away.

"Six international shipping lines are in competition with local ship contractors through their subsidiaries at the port. There is no need of having an ocean that does not benefit us," he said.

Mr Jefwa said that in 2014, KCSA and the Seafarers Union of Kenya drew up a collective bargaining agreement but that it cannot be implemented because shipping lines have yet to increase the pay for the work rendered by ship contractors.

Mr Ali said most of the 27 ship contractor companies at the port had lost business after the entry of the shipping lines and appealed for government intervention to save them.

Mr Ochiel said the low pay offered by shipping lines meant that the workers were victims of poor terms of service, including no provision for medical services in case of an accident on board the ships.

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