By Joseph Akwiri
MOMBASA, July 4 (Reuters) – East Africa’s biggest port in the Kenyan city of Mombasa said on Saturday it had dismissed 27 workers it believed were behind a strike this week that paralysed operations for two days and cost the port at least $2 million.
Over 2,000 workers went on strike on Wednesday and Thursday in protest against higher deductions for the government’s national health insurance scheme, prompting port management to threaten to fire them, having advertised their positions.
The work stoppage has disrupted business at the biggest port in the region, which handles imports such as fuel for Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.
“The management has identified the organizers of the strike and they have been summarily dismissed,” the port’s managing director, Gichiri Ndua, told a news conference in Mombasa, adding that the strike was illegal and more workers could be dismissed.
He said losses suffered by the port as a result of the strike had reached 200 million shillings ($2 million) with the work stoppage costing the entire region served by the port an estimated 1 billion shillings.
The strike also resulted in a backlog of 2,500 containers at the port, said Ndua, but added that nearly all the striking workers had resumed work after the sacking warning, and that they would clear the cargo by Monday.
Union officials vowed to fight on.
“It is going to result in the calling of another bigger industrial action,” Simon Sang, the union secretary general, told Reuters, as he went into a crisis meeting with other union officials.
At a nearby college owned and run by the port, at least 10 people were injured in a stampede on Saturday morning, as thousands turned up for the advertised interviews to replace the earlier striking workers.
The strike was to protest the government’s decision to increase the monthly National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) deductions from 320 shillings ($3.22) to 1,700 shillings without increasing their salaries, union officials say. ($1 = 99.4000 Kenyan shillings) (Editing by Edith Honan, editing by David Evans)
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