Contractor clash with workers leaves Sh6bn Kakamega Hospital in limbo
Workers held a protest over safety concerns after their colleague fell four floors to his death. They accuse the contractor of failing to provide them with safety gear including helmets, gumboots, safety harness and reflective jackets.
A Sub-County Hospital: The project manager promised to have workers’ issues addressed. FILE PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NMG
Construction work on the Sh6 billion Kakamega County Teaching and Referral Hospital has been suspended for a week following protests as trouble brews between workers and a Chinese contractor over safety concerns. A demonstration by labourers was triggered by the death of a worker who slipped from the fourth floor of the building and fell to his death on Saturday.A Chinese supervisor was also injured after workers broke into his house and beat him up following the incident.Police officers were on Monday deployed to the site as labourers vowed not to resume duty until their grievances are addressed.
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They accuse the contractor of failing to provide them with safety gear including helmets, gumboots, safety harnesses and reflective jackets. They also complained of poor working conditions and harassment from supervisors when they sought to know why their salaries had been delayed.“Our supervisors shout and hurl insults at us as we go about our duties and that piles pressure on us,” said a worker Monday.The project’s director, Dr Brenda Makokha, asked the main contractor – China Railway Jianchang Engineering Company Ltd (CRJE East Africa) – to take a full audit of all safety issues raised by workers and come up with a plan to reslove them before work can resume.“This is a five year project and we do not want the construction of the hospital to be delayed by disputes between workers and the management of the contractor. It’s unfortunate we have ended up losing one of the workers through an accident,” said Dr Makokha.She also urged labourers not to take the law into their own hands and instead report grievances to management and safety officials at the site.The project manager, Mr Peter Sheng, attended a meeting convened by Dr Makokha and promised to address their grievances.“We will definitely look into the issues raised by the workers to promote harmony at the place of work,” said Mr Sheng.Acting Kakamega County Labour officer, Swaleh Abdalla, claimed the contractor had dismissed 10 workers un-procedurally and was taking too long to settle disputes.He said the Labour office planned to take the contractor to court for failing to settle the cases, alleging that the firm hasn’t paid termination dues for the workers as directed by the Labour office.Mr Caleb Jumba, the western branch sectary of the Kenya Building Construction Timber Furniture and Allied Employees Union (KBCTFAEU) said the company had blocked workers at the hospital site from joining the union.“We have complaints that the contractor is threatening to sack workers who join the union…but we will continue fighting to ensure the rights of the workers are protected,” said Mr Jumba.Dr Makokha said CRJE had agreed to foot the worker’s burial expenses.