Yattani appoints team to probe SGR staff claims

Move follows allegations that Chinese firm contracted to manage Madaraka Express operations mistreating workers

A team comprising senior officials from Labour ministry has been constituted to look into workers’ discrimination and racism allegations at the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

Labour Cabinet secretary Ukur Yattani said the team would carry out thorough investigations as to the veracity of the SGR workers’ allegations and report back to him in seven days.

Yattani said the claims point to violation of labour laws and offend Article 41 of the Constitution  which states that every person has the right to fair labour practices. It further states that every worker has a right to fair remuneration, reasonable working conditions, to form, join or participate in activities of a trade union and to go on strike.

“Should the investigations reveal violations of any section of Labour laws, appropriate action, including prosecution will be taken against persons found culpable,” said Yattani yesterday in a statement.

The workers have alleged discrimination, including pay disparity  on the basis of race, unfair treatment, long working hours, threats, harassment, racism at work and denial of the right to association.

“As the ministry charged with the responsibility of enforcing compliance with the labour laws, and also cognisant of the need to guard workers’ safety and health at work, I have constituted a team to carry out thorough investigations,” said the CS.

On Wednesday, Government Spokesperson Eric Kiraithe denied the discrimination allegations and urged Kenyans to ‘bear with the Chinese’. However, Kiraithe said every maltreatment allegations for workers in the  SGR  project will be investigated and asked Kenyans to appreciate the work the Chinese are doing. Kiraithe assured all allegations will be judiciously investigated and action taken in the best of interest of Kenyans.

“We must all appreciate that the operations of a modern train infrastructural system like Madaraka Express in a consistently effective and efficient manner is a profession that calls for military standard discipline,” said Kiraithe.

“While the government is at hand to protect the individual rights and dignity of every Kenyan, inward looking haki yetu (our right) centered personalities have no place in this kind of profession either now or in the future,” he added.

The China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) has been accused of discrimination on the basis of salary disparities, personal hygiene, catering and assignments.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu-K)) has since demanded immediate deployment of Labour officers and inspectors in all SGR stations.

Cotu-K secretary general Francis Atwoli has also demanded that trade unions be allowed immediate access to SGR stations to recruit workers into unions for purposes of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement to address their terms and conditions of work.

Early this week, Atwoli termed as dehumanising and life-threatening working conditions under which Kenyans are enduring in the hands of Chinese managers as contained in a recent report.

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