Disbelief over sacking of striking airport workers in Kenya

April 18, 2012

The sacking of more than 300 striking airport workers in Kenya for refusing to return to work has caused outrage and anger among unionists and is now the subject of court action.

The workers employed by the state-owned Kenya Airports Authority (KAA), represented by the ITF-affiliated Aviation and Allied Workers’ Union (AAWU), walked out on strike at several airports across Kenya on 5 April in a collective bargaining dispute. The union is insisting on a 25 per cent pay rise and a range of other allowances as well as on demands regarding union representation.

The workers – most of them security guards, firefighter and porters – were sacked on 9 April when they defied their employer’s instructions to return to work following a breakdown in talks.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions, which is backing the union, took the matter to court and won a court order preventing the KAA from proceeding with the dismissals. The managing director flouted the ruling and later put in place a lockout despite a further court order instructing employees to return to work.

Nicholas Baraza secretary general of the AAWU said that he was shocked by management’s behaviour and told the workers that they should not be intimidated.

In a letter dated 17 April to the minister of transport Amos Kimunya, ITF general secretary David Cockroft called for intervention to “give effect to the court order of 11 April, to reinstate sacked workers and halt any proposed dismissals. The ministry should also insist that both parties return to the bargaining table to work out an acceptable resolution in good faith.”

Since the last quarter of 2011, major strikes in a range of sectors, including transport, have become commonplace across Kenya as workers, faced with double-digit inflation and rising fuel and consumer prices, fight for a living wage.

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