State defends Chinese against racism claims

Government Spokesman says mistreatment allegations will be probed as more staff harassment reports emerge

Noah Cheploen, Irene Githinji and Mercy Mwai @PeopleDailyKe

Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) staff working at the Mombasa station are forced to march outside their offices by their Chinese supervisors as part of punishment for underperformance,  it has emerged.

This was revealed as the  Government said every maltreatment allegations for SGR workers will be investigated and asked Kenyans to appreciate the work the Chinese are doing.

Consequently, National Assembly and Senate committees have separately summoned Transport Cabinet secretary James Macharia and the Kenya Railways managing director Athanas Maina to appear before it next week to shed light on claims of discrimination of Kenyans working at SGR.

In what could further raise questions about the management of Kenya’s premier rail transport, a source at the station narrated to the People Daily harrowing tale of discrimination and other forms of unfair practices  by Chinese supervisors.  China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC), which has been rocked by racism claims, asked local staff to sign secrecy agreements, which prevents them from taking pictures and posting them on social media or sharing them with media outlets.

But Government Spokesperson, Eric Kiraithe yesterday said all allegations will be judiciously investigated and action taken in the best interest of Kenyans.

However, he said some facts have been overlooked including training, skills and responsibilities transfer to the national staff.

He said no organisation overcomes its challenges through social media adding there is an ongoing orientation of staff aimed at inculcating the right mindset, a set of moral principles and workplace values that will build a foundation for the rail to operate effectively.

Separately, Dawson Sun Xi, a translator for the manager Ding Ge accused workers of lack of seriousness saying the majority of them were spending their time chatting and laughing.

  “They are not performing. You can ask the human resource  manager,” he said before disconnecting the call.

However, Railway and Allied Workers Union (Rawu) has asked SGR workers not to sign the secrecy agreement terming it as an illegality.

Rawu secretary general John Chumo asked SGR human resource managers to acquaint themselves with the law saying mistreatment of workers is a serious offence.  “It is tantamount to gagging them. It is unconstitutional and should be ignored,” he said. 

Initially, he said, SGR workers were reluctant to share their problems because of intimidation by Chinese but they are steadily coming out with serious information.

“Majority of these workers are young people and for majority of them this is their first job. They have been threatened with sacking if they speak out but we want to assure them that the law is there to protect them,” Chumo said.

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