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Strike at East African hub port of Mombasa enters second day

Friday, November 02, 2012

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MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - A strike by most of the workers at Kenya's main port of Mombasa entered its second day on Friday bringing loading and unloading at East Africa's main trade gateway to a standstill, management officials said.

The Mombasa port, the biggest in the region, handles imports such as fuel for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.

The industrial action in Kenya's second-largest city spread after Kenya Ferry Services workers also went on strike over pay.

Their strike blocked trucks carrying fuel and goods, and workers from the coastal mainland who were trying to get to work on Mombasa island.

The strike also inconvenienced passengers and tourists at the coastal strip popular with Kenyan and foreign holidaymakers.

The union representing workers at the port has said that 3,500 workers, most of whom are loaders who had worked at the port for between 15 and 20 years on a casual and contractual basis, went on strike demanding permanent jobs. The port employs 6,000 workers in total who are based in Mombasa.

Dockside work remained paralysed, and the workers chanted slogans outside the port's main offices, punching their fists in the air, saying they would only resume work after receiving letters guaranteeing them permanent jobs.

Bernard Osero, the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) corporate affairs manager, said: "We had a fruitful meeting with union officials yesterday that went late into the night."

"We agreed that letters of permanent employment will be issued to all the 3,500 workers today, but they are still out there at the offices not working. They say they must receive the letters first before they resume work."

He said issuing letters to the striking workers would take some hours because they were many.

Union officials were not immediately available to comment.

(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri.; Writing by James Macharia. Editing by Jane Merriman)


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