All eyes are on the Kuwait-based multinational firm Agility Logistics over its treatment of road transport workers in Kenya, the International Transport Workers’ Federation said today at a press conference in Mombasa.
The ITF expressed its serious concerns about the events of last night when, at around 11pm, ten Agility trucks leaving Mombasa were pulled into a convoy and police officers boarded the vehicles at the front, middle and rear of the convoy. The cargo is not sensitive. Drivers were concerned because they did not know when they would rest, and it appeared to them that the police were controlling the convoy under orders from Agility management. Their shift pattern meant some had been working continuously since they left Nairobi the previous night.
“A ten-truck convoy on a busy road driven by tired and scared drivers, corralled by public security forces who are funded by taxpayers is not only a big safety hazard, but also a serious violation of citizen’s rights,” said the ITF’s Africa regional secretary Joseph Katende. “This is high-risk anti-union activity, the likes of which we have not seen before in Kenya. The Federation will be raising this at the appropriate UN bodies.”
An investigative delegation from the ITF also reported that Agility Logistics must cease all such activities and respond properly to proposals to allow unimpeded access for union organisers and to foster a positive environment at the workplace – including zero tolerance of intimidation and harassment – or face worldwide censure from transport unions.
In Nairobi on Tuesday, Kenya CEO Mr. Ali Saibaba Kola refused to recognise the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers’ Union, and he said he needed to “think” about other ITF proposals, including a request to write to workers explaining that they are free to join a union – despite the Federation having received verbal assurances to this effect from Agility’s head office. And at the same time, four workers whom the ITF believes are being singled out for their union activity had been threatened with transfer at three days notice to locations up to 1200km away and in two of the cases, in Kampala Uganda. All of these workers have families with children in school.
A Mombasa manager has also issued employees with a loyalty declaration to sign, in which they are supposed to pledge to withdraw from the union – or not to join. This violates workers’ rights under the Kenyan constitution which are in line with ILO core standards on Freedom of Association, which Kenya has ratified.
“We strongly believe the company is behaving in bad faith. I’ve seen clear evidence that Agility Logistics are intensifying their anti-unionisation efforts and have heard many stories of atrocious working conditions, as well as of bullying and intimidation to prevent workers from joining the union. However I was encouraged by the clear determination of Agility Logistics workers to form a union” delegation member Martin Mayer of the UK’s biggest transport union, UNITE, said.
The investigation team from the ITF arrived in Mombasa from Nairobi last night having carried out visits to worksites operated by Agility, the company that three weeks ago attracted global attention and protests from thousands of trade unions worldwide after its treatment of workers sparked a bitter dispute.
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