Private port workers move to court for better pay, work terms

Workers offload fertilizers from Nikitis Majuro Cargo Ship at Mombasa Port. 890,000 bags of fertilizer imported by Kenya's tea development authority from Romania. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

The 47 petitioners who are engaged by ship contractors to work on ships and quayside have sued their employers, Kenya Ships Contractors Association (KSCA) and Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) and other government institutions claiming they were being paid peanuts contrary to what was provided for under the KPA tariff of 2012.

The stevedores complained that they were subjected to a shift of 12 hours instead of eight hours per day and paid Sh350 or less without additional allowances. In his supporting affidavit, a petitioner Hillary Nayweni, said he has been engaged as a stevedore from 2016 by Geo Wave Ship Contractor which is a member of the KSCA.

Nayweni stated that KSCA has never deducted from stevedores wages, topped up a proportionate sum and remitted it to National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) for health cover, exposing them to sickness and eventuality. He averred that KSCA has equally refused to remit deduction to the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) exposing him to social insecurity in old age.

Nayweni who has sworn the affidavit on behalf of the other petitioners, noted that KPA has developed a tariff to levy charges on shipping lines, importers and exporters using Mombasa but they have not received better pay. But in his replying affidavit, KSCA national chairman Richard Jeffwa averred that the Competition Authority of Kenya gazetted the common minimum tariffs for employees of his association on February 1, 2019 following a series of consultative meetings with stakeholders but this was not implemented because of lack of goodwill.

“So I state that there has been never goodwill in implementing these tariffs to improve on the minimum wage for the petitioners therein,” he asserted.

Jeffwa stated that following the deliberate omissions and commissions by responsible institutions, it was clear that the minimum wages as contemplated under part (V) of the Employment Act, National Social Security Fund Act and National Health Insurance Fund Act, and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to the petitioners “will for a long time remain a mirage.”

According to Mr Jeffwa, the Kenya Ships Agents Association (KSAA), representing the shipping lines, has informed KSCA in various stakeholders’ meetings that the charges contained in the KPA tariffs are usually secured by the 44th respondent (KPA) and any directive that they (ship agents) pay ship contractors would amount to double payment.

He noted that the payment KSCA makes to the petitioners ranges from Sh2,400 to Sh3,200 per day for a gang of eight persons.