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Dock workers’ pay rise in limbo as SRC delays deal

WORK LIFE
By Patrick Beja | April 27th 2021

Dock Workers Union (DWU) General Secretary Simon Sang during a briefing at the union’s offices in Mombasa County on April 14, 2020. [File, Standard]

Port workers' hopes for a salary increment have dimmed following a delay by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to approve the proposal.

It emerged yesterday that SRC decided to put on hold the implementation of the new Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA), saying the cash flow of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) cannot sustain the proposed wage bill.

The pay rise is supposed to be backdated to 16 months.

KPA and Dock Workers Union (DWU) agreed on a 10 per cent salary rise a month ago, but without SRC’s approval, the CBA cannot be registered and implemented.

SCR endorsement was crucial to enable KPA and the union to register the CBA with the Employment and Labour Relations Court to make the payment of arrears lawful.

It is reported that SRC, which has not officially communicated its reason for the delay to clear the partial CBA, could have put the plan on hold to clarify issues on cash flow at KPA.

Salary arrears

When contacted yesterday, SRC Principal Communications Officer Purity Njeru said they received the request from KPA and they are still reviewing it.

The issue of delayed payment of salary arrears has paralysed campaigns for the May 20 union elections as port workers are focused on cash.

“There has been so much delay to register the new CBA to enable KPA clear our salary arrears. Our immediate interest is money and not elections,” said Musa Jaka, a union member.

DWU General Secretary Simon Sang said yesterday that there has been an unusual delay to get the SRC approval to register the partial CBA agreed with the KPA management last month, even as the 4,400 members sought to be paid their 16-month arrears.

“We have been pushing for weeks to have the 2020-21 CBA registered but it has not happened. Members are demanding their arrears,” Sang said.

He said the previous CBA expired on December 31, 2019, and the current one which is yet to be registered was supposed to take effect in January last year.

On March 13 this year, acting KPA Managing Director Rashid Salim, General Manager Human Resources and Administration Daniel Ogutu, Sang and Joint Industrial Council (JIC) Chairman Linus Kariuki signed the CBA.

On March 29, Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo wrote a letter of no objection to the SRC for the registration of the CBA.

“Please issue a letter of no objection to enable us to forward the CBA to the Employment and Labour Relations Court for registration purposes,” reads the letter seen by The Standard.

In the new CBA, the basic salary for the highest-paid docker stands at Sh106,534, up from Sh102,436 per month.

The lowest-paid docker will take home Sh46,144, up from the current Sh44,369.

In the CBA negotiations with KPA under the JIC, Sang said they only dealt with the basic salary while the other issues will be tackled after the May 20 dockers’ elections.

“We have dealt with basic salary only. This is only five per cent of CBA. We have 95 per cent of issues to be dealt with, including medical, disciplinary and condition of service,” Sang said.

Sang said Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli has joined the push for the CBA’s registration.

“There is no much progress but Cotu secretary general has now joined me to push the issue,” he said.

In a rare gesture, Sang also asked his competitors for the general secretary’s position to join the push for the CBA’s registration to prove that they were not frustrating efforts to have the pay agreement registered.

In a statement dated April 22, Sang said he did not see why the aspirants should be allowed to campaign or be voted in before members get their arrears if they are the same blocking the payment.

“I want to urge all those aspiring for general secretary position to come to Nairobi so that we all camp at the Cotu headquarters until the SRC releases our agreed and signed CBA for 2020-21. This is necessary to prove whether the allegations that some of the aspirants are colluding and pulling some strings in some quarters to frustrate my efforts for immediate payment of arrears are true or not,” said Sang.

On April 16, an aspirant for the DWU general secretary position, Edward Opiyo, wrote to Atwoli, urging him to assist Sang and his team to secure the CBA’s approval at the SRC so as to finalise the registration process.

“This CBA has been a long-drawn engagement with the KPA management covering a period of two years. The wait has been too long and members are at the end of their tethers. Patience is running out, provoking restlessness and emotions during this election season,” wrote Opiyo, a former head of container operations at the Port of Mombasa.

 

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