March 6 (UPI) -- Violence erupted Wednesday at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya as riot police fired tear gas and used batons on striking airport workers.
Workers were protesting plans to merge the airport authority with the national airline. The strike, which Kenyan officials have called illegal, brought the airport to a standstill, halting flights and stranding hundreds of passengers. A few flights had managed to take off, but a backlog remained.
Airports in Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu have also been affected.
Transport Secretary James Macharia said the strike defied a court order and anyone who doesn't report to work by the end of the day will be fired. He said the airport workers went on strike prematurely because the national takeover is a only a proposal at this point.
Labor Secretary Ukur Yattani called for striking workers to return. A committee has been established to help resolve issues raised by aviation workers. The committee will report back in 30 days. Workers raised several grievances, including mismanagement, racism and outsourcing.
Frustrated passengers complained on social media about the lack of information while they wait for flights.
What message is @KenyaAirports passing? Do you recognise this is an international airport and you are inconveniencing travellers including infants, young children, expecting mothers & old people. Could you not find other ways or raising your griverncies? #JKIA- Ali (@Earlie_tall) March 6, 2019
Others criticized the government's violent response to the strike.