Kenyans working at the much hyped Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) have been forced to cope up with neocolonialism, prejudice, poor pay and job insecurity at the hands of the Chinese masters.
In an investigative piece published by the Sunday Standard, the Kenyan staffers are discriminated against from the smallest aspects of basic facilities to salaries, the Chinese taking the best of all.
Kenyans are not allowed to use Chinese tables in the staff cafeteria. This divide runs to the staff vans as well where even if only one Chinese is on board, Kenyans will not use them when time for drop-offs come.
To add salt to the injury, the Kenyan experts hired to receive training from the Chinese with the aim of taking over have been reduced to menial workers and ceremonial assistants even as more Chinese workforce is imported to run the project.
According to the Sunday Standard, there are 40 trained Kenyan locomotive drivers whose job should be to drive. But the closest they have gotten is sitting in the driver’s cabin. They are now outnumbered by their Chinese nationals, with 50 Chinese drivers against 38 locals.
A number of track maintenance technicians, who were employed with at least a diploma in civil engineering, have also ended up doing menial jobs after Chinese contractors took up theirs.
To make learning hard for Kenyans, the Chinese contractor has also opted to keep most of their equipment programmed in Chinese, making it impossible for Kenyans who do not read Chinese to progress beyond menial jobs, despite being employed as technicians, engineers and drivers.
In terms of pay, most Kenyan staffers earn around Ksh40,000 a month, less than a quarter of what their Chinese counterparts earn for the same job.
“We are still referred to as trainees despite more than one year working in the field. The Chinese whom we work with in the same capacity only need two weeks of the same training and they are graduated to expert level,” said a source who spoke to the daily.
Whenever Kenyans are fired for not meeting standards, they are replaced by Chinese employees waiting on the sidelines.
To cover up for the pay anomaly, some employees are given two P9 forms to file tax returns.
“This lady received two P9s with different figures, one showed she earns more than what she actually takes home. Some employees who work at the Mombasa terminus have not been given payslips for the last one year. We only saw this anomaly after asking for the payslips,” says another source.
Apart from mistreating its staff, the SGR has adversely affected the Kenyan wildlife, so far killing at least two lions and five buffaloes.
The project which was designed to help Kenyans and boost Kenyan economy might be benefiting a few Chinese.
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