SGR workers ‘at the mercy of wild animals as Chinese get security’
Over three hundred Standard Gauge Rail workers in Voi sub-county downed their tools Friday alleging discrimination by the China Road and Bridge Construction (CRBC) officials.
The workers gathered at Moi stadium demanding to be addressed by the Chinese managers and vowed not to resume work until all their grievances were tackled.
The workers were drawn from Manyani and Man-Eaters SGR camp sites and included plant operators, plumbers, surveyors, masons, cleaners and electricians.
Speaking to KNA at Moi stadium, Mr. Elias Mberi, a liaison officer, said that the workers working inside the park risked their lives as the police officers deployed to provide security were only guarding the Chinese officials leaving the workers at the mercy of wild animals.
He noted that police officers leave construction sites alongside CRBC officials abandoning hundreds of workers deep inside Tsavo National Park.
Mberi added that several workers have been forced to flee for their safety after encountering dangerous wild animals in the park.
“The police are only protecting the Chinese officials. The workers are left to deal with wild animals after they are done with the day’s work,” he said.
The strike paralyzed the construction work for SGR forcing dozens of Chinese managers to rush at the stadium to persuade the workers to resume work.
After their efforts failed, an urgent meeting was convened where an agreement was arrived at. The officials promised the workers that their matters would be addressed promptly.
Among other grievances raised by the workers was overloading in trucks transporting them to and from working sites.
Workers alleged that the CRBC officials were forcing over 100 workers to travel in a single tipper to cut down on cost of transport. They further claimed that officials had forbidden them from boarding buses or trailers plying the highway. Any worker caught hitchhiking on any vehicle from the designated one by CRBC was sacked.
“The tippers are so crowded and one cannot even move. If you board a bus and you are discovered, your job is gone,” said Mr. Mberi.
Workers on night shift accused the officials of underfeeding them while they feasted on sumptuous meals. They said a worker on night shift was given two packets of noodles to eat at night while officials got ready-made meals from hotels in Voi town.
The workers also accused the Chinese officials of reneging on compensation for workers injured while working. There are reports that dozens of workers who had accidents while working have not been compensated.
When contacted, County Police Commander Richard Bitonga said that the police were providing security to all the people working in the project regardless of their status.
He added that police would intensify patrols to ensure that all workers were kept safe while working on the project. He further noted that the workers were escorted on daily basis by armed police escort after work.