Workers union sue over permanent jobs for matatu crew

Matatus at a Nairobi terminus. file photo | nmg
Matatus at a Nairobi terminus. file photo | nmg 

The Kenya National Union of Co-operatives Staff wants more than 700 companies operating matatus compelled to formalise the employment of their workers.

The union, through lawyer George Miyare, argues that the 707 matatu saccos and companies have failed to comply with the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) laws, labour laws, and the Constitution. He accuses the saccos of exploiting their drivers, conductors, and other crew members of the Public Service Vehicles (PSVs).

“We seek a declaration that non-recognition of drivers, conductors and other crew members of PSVs as regular employees, is a violation of their freedoms against discrimination, rights to fair labour practices, social security, equal protection and equal benefit of the law,” says the union in court papers.

Lawyer Miyare says the NTSA (Operation of PSVs) Regulations, 2014 gave responsibility over PSVs to saccos and companies operating matatus.

One of their key operational duty, he argues is the employment and management of drivers, conductors, mechanics, clerks, inspectors, office managers and other staff working in the PSVs.

These duties, the lawyer says must comply with labour laws and regulations including on statutory deductions, health and safety of the workplace, work injuries benefits, insurance, statutory leave days and written contracts of employment.

However, failure by the saccos and companies to effectively carry out their roles of operators has caused individual owners of PSVs to unlawfully retain control and management of the day to day operational responsibilities over their vehicles contrary to the NTSA regulations and the law.

“This has been to the disadvantage of their drivers, conductors and other staff members employed to work in the said vehicles, who are blatantly discriminated against, mistreated and exploited,” lawyer Miyare says.

The PSVs staff are forced to work overtime daily with no additional pay, he says.

He adds that the non-recognition of drivers, conductors and other crew members of PSVs as employees deprives them of the benefits and protection guaranteed by the law.

As a result of the failure, he says disorder continues in the public transport sector; and road accidents are unabated as owners of PSVs compete to maximise their profits at the expense of the rights of drivers, conductors and other crew members.

The government also loses tax revenues from the saccos and companies, or owners in form of PAYE.