Rift Valley Railways (RVR) workers have obtained a temporary court order barring their transfer back to the Kenya Railways Corporation until the labour relations court has determined a suit they have filed challenging the terms of the process.
Justice Monicah Mbaru on Monday issued the orders after the RVR employees argued that the Kenya Railways has demanded that they apply for their jobs afresh, or face redundancy.
RVR had since 2006 had over 1,600 Kenya Railways employees seconded to it. The termination of its 25-year concession deal was to see RVR hand back assets to Kenya Railways, including employees.
The employees, through their lawyer Edwin Githinji Thiong’o, Monday told Justice Mbaru that the Kenya Railways and the RVR did not engage them on the hand-back process, and that they have now been threatened with redundancy.
Justice Mbaru ordered that the orders stay in place until she has determined the application by RVR workers. Neither RVR nor Kenya Railways has responded to the suit yet.
“The specific aggressive compulsion of the petitioners to apply for their jobs against the threat of being declared unemployed without recourse amounts to infringement and gross trespass of rights against slavery, servitude and forced labour,” Mr Thiong’o says in suit papers.
“The conspicuous lack of consultation, audience or other engagement with employees by Kenya Railways and RVR denies the petitioners the right to a fair hearing...,” he adds.
The suit comes after the RVR workers lobby filed a separate application in the commercial division of the High Court seeking to freeze employee transfer until it has been included in discussions over how the hand back process will be done.
Employees say that their exclusion from the discussions are aimed at lowering their pay, and sending home part of the workforce.