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New Dockers' Union Boss Spells Out His Vision

The Nation (Nairobi), 13 July 2001

The Kenya Ports Authority's pension scheme is illegal, newly-elected Dock Workers Union General Secretary Kennedy Kiliku said yesterday.

The union is seeking immediate negotiation of the contentious pension scheme, which was imposed on workers, he said.

He described the pension scheme as top on the agenda of five major issues that need urgent attention from the authority's management.

Describing the pension scheme as a "burning issue", Mr Kiliku said reports that it had been approved by Parliament were misleading.

Mr Kiliku spoke with the Nation at his Makuli Fagia office in Mombasa. Had the scheme had the approval of Parliament, he said, it would have been applicable to other Government corporations.

The scheme awards all KPA workers a blanket pension Sh540,000 regardless of grade and service.

The former MP said his union wanted the scheme scrapped and a new pension package negotiated. He argued that KPA was capable of paying retiring workers up to Sh2 million.

He was accompanied by union Chairman Mwichande Mwinyikuku, Treasurer Connie Wanekaya and Assistant General Secretary Alex Ndege.

The team ruled out confrontational politics, saying that they preferred to deal with issues and not cheap controversy. "Our union and KPA should be seen as partners in development. If our workers are happy, the port will see enhanced efficiency and productivity, which is also good for the KPA management," Mr Kiliku noted.

Other items on the agenda include the fate of the 700 casual labourers who have worked at the port for seven years. The workers, popularly known as "white cards", have not been absorbed into the KPA workforce despite having undergone all the necessary procedures, including medical check-ups.

Mr Kiliku said KPA had violated labour laws by failing to offer the workers permanent positions.

On salaries, he said his union would be demanding a pay rise of 175 per cent for the lowest paid workers. KPA was the most viable and self-sustaining Government corporation, he said, and it should pay its staff attractive rates.

He called for scraping of job groups PA-12, PA-11 and PA-10, saying that they were not necessary at this stage.

The dockworkers will also be putting up a case for stopping taxation on the leave and travelling allowances.

The union boss said it would be ill-conceived to privatise KPA, arguing that the Government was expected to let go only of corporations that were inefficient . "KPA is one of the most sustainable institutions in the world and does not need to be privatised," Mr Kiliku said. "It only needs to be run professionally by qualified staff."

Kenyan leaders and employers should hold discussions around labour and employment, he said. "What we need our leaders to do now is to try and tackle the massive unemployment our people are facing. Only 10 per cent of our population are in gainful employment. How are they expected to feed the population of 28 million people who depend on them?"

Copyright 2001 The Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).