At least 942 workers who are members of the Kenya Building, Construction, Timber, Furniture and Allied Industries Employees Union (KBCFTAIE), one of BWI’s affiliate in Kenya have been on strike since 25 July to protest against unfair practices and bad working conditions at Thwake Dam project contracted by M/S China Gezouba Group.
The union has repeatedly questioned the Chinese employer about a series of workers’ grievances that include low pay, arbitrary dismissals, lack of toilets, drinking water, Personal Protective Equipment, job grading, off days, abusive language and sexual harassment by the Chinese supervisors.
After five days into the strike a multi-agency meeting was held at the work place bringing together the government, Ministry of Water and Irrigation and China Gezouba Group. Although a solution was reached unfortunately there were no input or consultations with the union or workers leading to workers continuing not only the strike but also protest against so-called agreement.
During these protest, KBCFTAIE officials and workers’ representatives of Thwake dam were briefly arrested by the Police and released on 30 July for intimidation. despite this, the workers are determined to fight with the support of their union, KBCFTAIE against unfair practices and bad working conditions at the work site. The strike is still on until further notice.
Joe Macharia the deputy General Secretary of KBCFTAIE stated, “We sent a letter to the African Develpment Bank and the government of Kenya about the grievances of our members at Thwake Dam project. We have not yet received any reaction from them apart from intimidation by the Police. We will continue to support our members in their struggle for their rights.”
The Thwake Multi-purpose Water Development Program comprises a multi-purpose dam for water supply, hydropower generation, and irrigation development. The Phase One of the project is funded by the government of Kenya at 178.95 million $USD while the African Development Bank is contributing 90 million $USD. About 7,690 jobs are expected to be created by the end of the project which is to be completed by 2022.