PUBLISHED ON February 17th, 2015

Demand for higher wages hits standard gauge rail project

The demand for high wages has rocked the building of the standard gauge railway, introducing yet another hurdle even as State grapples with compensation row that threatened the Sh327 billion project last year.

The contractor, China Road and Bridge Corporation (CBRC), has accused activists of inciting some of the 8,000 local workers hired so far to work on the Mombasa-Nairobi section to demand “unrealistic” pay.

“We understand reasonable requests from our workers but for some we are afraid that they are instigated by some social activists,” CBRC external relations manager Julius Li.

“Like in Taru quarry, some workers have worked there only for two months but wanted a triple salary raise.”

The firm has not publicly stated how it pays various categories of workers. But the employees had earlier indicated that drivers go home with Sh650, machine operators earn Sh700 and casual labourers Sh400 a day.

Mr Li said the firm’s human resources department was working on the issues raised so far, which include irregular pay, unpaid overtime, abuse and mistreatment by the Chinese supervisors.

The threat of labour unrest is likely to slow down the Chinese firm’s ambition to hire up to 30,000 labourers in the local market to work in the railway project.

The firm had earlier this month dismissed employees caught siphoning fuel, kicking off several days of workers’ strike.

More than 1,000 local workers at Section 3 camp in Mtito Andei went on strike earlier in the month over the issue, but have since resumed work.

The CRBC official claimed that drivers, in collusion with other manual labourers, were siphoning the fuel which they sold along Mombasa Road.

Mr Li said: “Some people were caught siphoning fuel and that’s why we dismissed them. According to our regulations of employment, this is not allowed.”

The government has given itself a tight deadline of up to September 2017 to finish work on the 609-km Mombasa-Nairobi section of the railway.

Works in some areas have been hit by land compensation delays which have seen the contractor unable to access the entire length of the line.

Source: Business Daily

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