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Somaliland’s dock workers start work strikes against reforms

Subsequent negotiations between the 448-members dock workers and the company broke down, leading to protests followed by work strikes that started on Thursday.

By Jamal Ibrahim,

HARGEISA –Somaliland’s dock port workers have started fresh strikes in protest of new reforms and lack of agreements with their employer, causing major disruptions at the port which saw container ships stuck at the anchorage after delays in offloads.

Dockers are angry over reform of port labour practices implemented by Dubai’s international ports operator, DP World, which manages Berbera port that also extended working hours.

Protesters also complained against lack of employment agreements with the company that workers say denied them of their basic employee rights.

The striking workers gathered outside the port during protests in Berbera city.

Subsequent negotiations between the 448-members dock workers and the company broke down, leading to protests followed by work strikes that started on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the port authorities have urged the sector workers who staged protests in Berbera city to return to work, saying that work strikes would not be the best manner to solve the current dispute.

The extent of losses that the new work strikes will cause to the port remain unclear. However, officials have expressed worries that continued work strikes would affect the port’s performance and revenue generations.

In February, DP World which signed a 30-year contract with the Somaliland to manage its largest port earlier this had laid off 250 local port workers, in major job cuts that sent shockwaves among the port’s workers.

The news of layoffs has met with sudden angers and protests against the ‘sudden’ layoffs, deemed by many  as ’unfair’.

Berbera port is particularly vulnerable to the strikes as it remains the only port through which much of the goods destined for Somaliland pass through.

In the meantime, exports have helped underpin Somaliland’s economic recovery over decades. Some 80 percent of imports and 60 percent of exports are handled by the Berbera port.

According to economic analysts, Berbera’s management by UAE is parts of retaliatory measures against Djibouti which annulled the Dubai-based ports operator DP World’s terminal contract followed by arbitration proceedings by the Djiboutian government over alleged corruption by the company.

The United Arab Emirates has since cut diplomatic relations with Djibouti and picked Somaliland as its alternative base other than Somalia which signed multiple agreements with Turkey, a long time strategic rival of UAE to run its key economic hubs including Mogadishu port and the International airport in Mogadishu.

The breakaway northern Somalia republic has declared a unilateral independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991; however, no country has so far recognized it as an independent state. Somali government considers Somaliland as parts of Somalia’s territory, an assertion long dismissed by Somaliland which considers itself as an independent state.

Somaliland also maintains its own separate army, currency and government.

(Writing by Judy Maina, editing by Jeff Mwaura)

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