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SRC rejects port workers' pay rise deal, asks parties to renegotiate

By Patrick Beja | July 15th 2021
Containers congested at the port of Mombasa [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has rejected a 10 per cent basic salary increase for Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) unionisable workers and instead directed parties to negotiate further.

A circular issued by KPA dated July 12 to over 4,400 employees indicates that the renegotiation talks will be led by the National Treasury.

The SRC says the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between KPA and Dock Workers Union (DWU) on April 20 covers only two years instead of four as required.

The commission also questioned KPA’s high wage bill, saying its cash flow cannot sustain employees’ pay rise every two years.

Meanwhile, DWU yesterday said it will meet Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani next week to seek his clearance for the CBA to be implemented. Union General Secretary Simon Sang said he would lead a delegation to Yatani to seek clarification on the stalled 2020/2021 CBA and ask him to fast track it.

Sang said the union was prepared to negotiate for an additional CBA to cover 2022/2023 as recommended by SRC. He took issue with the KPA management for failing to share correspondences between it and SRC since May on the stalled clearance of the signed CBA.

In the KPA circular, Human Resources and Administration General Manager Daniel Ogutu said the management held a meeting with SRC on May 17 but it was later advised to seek further approval from the National Treasury in order to conclude the four-year CBA cycle for 2020/2023.

Ogutu said while signing the agreement, KPA management and the union were guided by a memorandum of understanding signed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Cotu and the Federation of Kenya Employers.

“The signing of the agreement relied on section 3(c) (iii) of the memorandum of understanding, which guided on the review of some of the items in the existing CBAs. It is against this background that the two-year CBA was signed and submitted for SRC’s clearance to facilitate registration with Labour and Employment Court,” he said.

A copy of the circular was made available to KPA new acting Managing Director John Mwangemi who took office this month.

There is simmering tension among workers over the stalled CBA. It is the first time in many years at KPA that a signed CBA has not been implemented for nearly 20 months. The salary increase is supposed to be backdated to January 1, 2020.

Mwangemi has also been confronted by a dispute over a 30 per cent capping on overtime allowances that has caused friction between KPA management and the union.

For more than a year, management has restricted payment of overtime allowances for each worker at 30 per cent of the monthly salary, causing protests.

Apart from the 2022/2023 CBA, KPA management and the union are also set to negotiate other perks such as medical, housing and transport allowances for the four-year period.

In the circular, Ogutu assured the unionisable members that KPA was in consultation with the National Treasury to have the CBA approved.

“The Kenya Ports Authority management wishes to emphasise its commitment to industrial peace and staff welfare. This is therefore to assure all unionisable members of staff that KPA management is in consultation with the National Treasury for the necessary approval as guided by SRC.”

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