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Why various interests make dockers elections a hot potato

Dock Workers Union (DWU) General Secretary Simon Sang during a briefing at DWU offices in Mombasa County on Tuesday 14th April 2020.  [Photo/Kelvin Karani]

The race for the Dock Workers Union (DWU) is boiling down to a referendum on the long-serving Secretary General Simon Sang.

Debate on overtime pay, privatisation of port terminals and the recently signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) have also emerged as factors that could determine the polls.

Yesterday, all the 20 aspirants decried increased interest in the union from government operatives, shipping lines, port managers and port business lobbyists keen to influence the outcome.

“There are at least three candidates I know who have been sponsored to oust me because of my stand against port privatisation and a proposal to the three counties to build a terminal at Mariakani,” said Sang, adding that he will push for Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties to jointly build a cargo depot to benefit from port business.

Sang is opposed to the privatisation or concession of port terminals or berths in the ports of Mombasa and Lamu, saying it will lead to job losses.

Major shipping lines and global terminal operators angling for business opportunities at the two ports are said to be keen to have a friendlier union leadership.

The port management is also keen to see a less combative union leadership to ensure smooth operations of the port and implementation of its programmes.

Election date

Aspirants who have declared their interest to unseat Sang are Harrison Lusigi, Said Chande, Alphaeus Aluoch, Edward Opiyo, Abubakar Mohamed, Jorum Kiilu, Renson Thoya and Ezra Okong’o.

Others are Fatuma Mbule, Majengo Warrah, Siyat Abdullahi, Harry Arigi, Omar Masumbuko, Moses Abebe, Kanga Maganga, Athman Athman, Mohamed Mabanda, Mohamed Ibrahim and Adenan Ondieki.

Some of the contenders accused Sang of not disclosing the election date as a tactic to destabilise them.

“We are reading from the media that the polls will be on April 15. Sang has not issued a circular,” said Lusigi.

“He started as a good leader but he lost his way towards the tail-end of his term, with wrangles affecting his leadership,” he added.

Thoya, the current Mikindani MCA and shop steward, on the other hand, has teamed up with DWU chair Mohamed Sheria, who has a frosty relationship with Sang.

Sheria has declared that he will defend his seat but settled on Thoya to run alongside him. Thoya was sacked from the port in July 2015.

But a confident Sang dismissed his challengers as incompetent, bitter and jealous people who are only out to make noise.

He said the union’s National Executive Committee (NEC) will today meet to extend the date of electionby one week from April 15, citing the delayed registration of the CBA.

“We had set April 15 (as the date for elections) but the delay to register the CBA in Nairobi has necessitated an extension because I will travel to Nairobi to facilitate the registration. We need time to prepare for the election and this can happen after the CBA is registered,” he explained.

Sang has been at the helm of the union for the past 15 years, having taken over from former Changamwe MP Kennedy Kiliku in 2006.

In October last year, the government directed all trade unions to carry out elections starting January this year.

In a circular, Registrar of Trade Unions E N Gichema directed the Central Organisation of Trade Unions to ensure national elections are held before August 30, 2021.

Speedy implementation

Yesterday, Sang went ahead to unveil Pwani Development Forum (PDF) to push for the establishment of a Blue Economy ministry to ensure speedy implementation of programmes within the sector.

Sang asked the government to ensure that the Kenya National Shipping Line (KNSL) partners with all the shipping lines that handle Kenya’s imports and exports.

He said he was opposed to the government’s arrangement where KNSL was to only partner with the Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) to operate the second container terminal.

“We want the national government to allow KNSL to partner with all the shipping lines that handle Kenya’s imports and exports,” he said.


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