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September 23, 2017

RVR employees go without August salaries over KRC row

Kenya Railway Corporation managing director Atanas Maina watches as a train rolls by. /ELKANA JACOB
Kenya Railway Corporation managing director Atanas Maina watches as a train rolls by. /ELKANA JACOB

About 3000 former employees of the Rift Valley Railway (RVR) are yet to be paid their August salaries as the handover wrangles between RVR and the Kenya Railway Corporation (KRC) intensify.

This after RVR' 25 year concession to run the old railway was terminated late July and given 30 days by the High Court to hand over employees and assets to KRC.

The KRC managing director Atanas Maina on August 31 however declined to receive employees from RVR, maintaining that they can only take up the assets.

He dismissed the court's order citing an agreement signed in 2006 that said employees and other obligations such as unpaid suppliers and debts to financial institutions would remain the concern of RVR should the concession come to an end or be terminated.

KRC later yielded to pressure and handed all employees six-month probation contracts that they have since rejected, urging the corporation to maintain their permanent contracts as given by their former employer.

Maina has declined the request by employees saying that he needs time to reorganise the organisation and make an assessment of the total manpower required before he can engage them on a long term basis.

Before the employment status row dust settles, another fight between the two railway firms involving employees' August pay has emerged, forcing two key officials of RVR to resign.

In letters seen by the Star, RVR has asked KRC to settle the staff payroll and payment for the community based groups who rendered line services during the 30-days handover period that ended on August 31.

The letter dated September 9 and signed by RVR chief executive officer Isaiah Okoth reveals that KRC instructed customers to pay all receivables for loading to its account, immediately the high court terminated RVR's concession.

In its response dated September 11, KRC asked RVR to send them a statement of account touching on services rendered in the month of August, threatening to take legal action against its management if found to have engaged in fraudulent activities.

''Further we have information that some customers may have paid out monies to yourself or RVR Uganda under the guise that services were rendered by KRV Kenya. Should this be the case, we expect a full account of the same and remittance of all sums to our bank account,'' the letter read in part.

The letter is however mum about the the employees' August salary, further deepening the human resource handover tussle between the two firms.

Even so, the Kenya Railways and Allied Workers Union (KRAWU) has threatened to take legal action against RVR for delaying payments to its members.

The union's secretary general John Chumo told the Star that RVR was allowed to operate and collect revenues in August which they were to use to pay workers.

''Am in a meeting with the union's executive committee on that matter. I will tell you when we will be heading to court. RVR is stable and should pay workers immediately,'' said Chumo.

He asked members to accept the six month contracts given by KRC even as the government body plans for the future of the old railway line.

On Monday, Okoth sent an exit notice to all RVR employees, stating that his mandate as the group chief executive officer ended on September 8.

''Please be advised that all outstanding matters that requires the GCEO's attention including those related to staff should be referred to Bong Yoon (RVRK) or Vincent Tsiongo (RVRU),'' said Okoth.

His resignation was followed shortly after by the group's human resource officer Mary Kita putting employees in more dilemma.

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