Railways hits rough bump as striking workers dig in

RVR workers protest over pay. FILE Photo | Laban Walloga | NMG
RVR workers protest over pay. FILE Photo | Laban Walloga | NMG 

The Kenya Railways (KR) had a raw feel of the difficult terrain ahead after workers disrupted the Nairobi commuter train yesterday, just hours before it took back a mandate it surrendered 10 years ago to the private sector.

Workers, who were on their second day of protests, stormed the Rift Valley Railways (RVR) offices in Nairobi demanding to know their terms of engagement before resuming work under the KR management.

The commuter train plying the city centre-Syokimau route via Imara Daima has been grounded since the protests began on Wednesday morning.

The employees comprising train attendants, drivers, engineers, welders, and security personnel have also paralysed operations on the Ruiru- Embakasi-Kikuyu route.

The workers were angered by a letter from RVR Group Chief Executive Isaiah Okoth transferring them to KR with effect from today.

“Following the High Court of Kenya order issued on 31st July 2017, terminating the Kenya concession agreement between the Government of Kenya, KR and RVR ordering the transfer of all employees of RVR to KRC, within a period of (30) days from the date of that order, you will be transferred to KRC with effect from September 1, 2017,” reads a section of the letter.

In the letter dated 30 August, 2017, the workers are assured of access to their National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contribution with accruing interests as per the existing NSSF Act in Kenya.

Outstanding leave days for 2017 will also be transferred to KRC.

The workers’ provident fund will be retained with Alexander Forbes and they will only access the benefits upon meeting the ‘Trust Deed Rule and the Retirements Benefits Authority criteria’.

“We are not privy to the contents of the letter, this being a communication between an employer and his employee. We are going through government approvals and will conclude tomorrow (today),” KR managing Director Atanas Maina told the Business Daily.

Ended contract

Kenya terminated the 25-year contract it signed with RVR to run its century-old metre-gauge line to Uganda.

The decision was reached by consent made in the High Court between RVR and KR.

The threat to terminate the concession agreement has been hanging in the air since January after financiers failed to come to RVR’s rescue.

It was triggered by the failure of RVR to pay concession fees amounting to Sh600 million and breach of performance targets including cargo moved on rail from the Mombasa port.

Two week ago RVR workers downed their tools for two days over delayed July salaries.

Three weeks ago, July pay for workers hired by the Chinese firm operating the Mombasa-Nairobi SGR passenger trains also delayed, threatening smooth operations of the service.