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Seafarers want State to tame social dumping at port

Kenya Ports Authority Gantry Cranes offloading containers at the container terminal’s Port of Mombasa on January 22, 2022. [Maarufu Mohamed, Standard]

Kenyan seafarers want the government to crack the whip on social dumping which they claim is rife at the port of Mombasa.

Social dumping is a practise where employers use cheap labour that is usually available at the point of production. In most instances, foreigners or immigrant workers are preferred over locals.

According to former Secretary-General of the Seafarers Union of Kenya (SUK), Andrew Mwangura, some shipping companies in Mombasa have continued to hire immigrant workers at deplorable wage rates, a clever tactic to evade the local labour laws and prop up their profit margins. 

''The practice commonly known as social dumping thrives upon the influx of hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe and Asia who land here through all types of routes and different guises, every year,'' Mwangura said.

He said most of the immigrants are employed in the fisheries and maritime transport sector with no social protection, deplorable wages, and inhuman living conditions aboard Mombasa-based ocean-going vessels.

He termed them as “slaves” of the 21st century.

Mwangura noted that due to their marginalisation in the foreign country and the risk to be sanctioned by their employers, these workers have often no recourse to address their plight.

''Social dumping and exploitation are practices which do not happen sporadically, they are deliberately promoted by ship owners and corrupt government officials as a normal free-market business model," noted Mwangura.

He said several law-abiding companies domiciled at the port of Mombasa are getting frustrated by the enormous competitive advantage of their competitors.

''There appears to be no voice to speak out in the open. The national social protection schemes are seriously undermined and circumvented. So the practice of cross-border social dumping is a serious security threat to Kenya," Mwangura warned.