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Atwoli demands deployment of SGR workers after expose' on 'mistreatment'

Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa on Thursday.
Passengers at the Nairobi terminus going to board the SGR passenger train to Mombasa on Thursday.

COTU has demanded immediate deployment of labour officers and inspectors in all Standard Gauge Railway stations.

Secretary-General Francis Atwoli was reacting to an expose that alleged workers were being mistreated at operations over racism.

"The impunity with which these individuals with Chinese origin are operating in the country must come to a stop. It is the prime duty of the government to protect its citizens," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Atwoli said the company should allow trade unions the immediate access to the stations for the purpose of recruiting workers into their unions.

"This is for the purposes of collective bargaining and addressing their terms and conditions of work with the SGR management," he said.

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Noting that the expose confirmed their greatest fears, Atwoli said the company had remained hostile to any trade union.

"The company has over the years denied any access by any authorized labour office to its premises as exploitation of labour and worst forms of labour practices are the norm," he said.

Atwoli said COTU is determined to stay out and free every Kenyan worker form "yokes of discrimination and neo-colonialism".

"It is despicable that a Kenyan working in his or her own country could be forced to lie flat on the ground and receive all manner of punishment brutally.." he said.

"We condemn the dehumanizing and life-threatening working conditions under which Kenyans are enduring in the hands of the Chinese management."

The article by the Sunday Standard noted that Chinese staff would never sit on the same table with Kenyans and vice versa.

The investigative piece revealed that Kenyan drivers have taken charge of the 472-kilometre ride just once unlike their Chinese counterparts.

On July 9th, Kenya Railways managing director Attanas Maina said the China Road and Bridge Corporation has been instructed to submit a report within 72 hours on the claims.

"The outrage, anger and disappointment expressed is understandable and we share the same sentiments. This unethical conduct if found to be authentic is completely unacceptable," he said.

The report said It also said more excesses are allowed on the freight trains where there is little visibility.