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‘Afristar is like a concentration camp’ – staff member says

Afristar workers servicing one of the locomotives

Definition: The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment that are acceptable in a constitutional democracy. – Online encyclopedia

Workers at the Africa Star Railway Operation Company Limited (Afristar), a firm that manages Standard Gauge Railways (SGR) describe the worrking conditions to be like those in a concentration camp.

In 2018 when the first exposé was done about the same, the government through Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia dismissed the claims as ‘a little misunderstanding’.

A staffer tells that since march 2020 they have been locked up by Afristar from entering the Nairobi Terminus.

“We have never seen our families for the last 11 months. A driver was fired for going to meet his wife at December 25th December 2020”, the source wrote.

Below is a sample disciplinary letter that we got hold of:

In the crucial period of Christmas and New Year when the company is making her best effort towards transportation and pandemic prevention safety, the staff violated the pandemic prevention regulation, sneaking out in disregard of his and others’ health, which has high potential risk of causing group infection, operation disruption and further serious consequences. In accordance with the regulation in Notice on Defining Disciplines and Handling Provisions concerning Pandemic Prevention and Control (Provisional) (REF: Admin/2020/260) Clause Two: Handling for Breach of Pandemic Prevention & Control Disciplines, the behavior conforms to a culpable negligence of provision 7 which reads: Causing serious impact due to failure in observing the company’s pandemic prevention & control regulations or intentionally interfering with relevant work. It is decided the staff be dismissed in line with the culpable disciplinary decision. The company reserves all right to pursue their legal liabilities.

A notice akin to Nazi concentration camp was issue.

Afristar Slashed African Staffers Salaries By 30% And Kept Sending Them Emails On How The Company Was making Profits

Notice on Disciplinary Decision of Staff Leaving Quarantine Management Without Permission

All departments, stations (workshops and train crew), all direct affiliate centers. On 25th December, 2020, one PSV driver under quarantine management in Nairobi maintenance workshop, Track & Signaling Department, left the quarantine compound after lunch without permission, which was found out by the workshop during the daily roll call. The workshop could not reach him on phone until he came back at 19:50 on the same day.

He was fired.

Not to take things overboard but the virus which originated from China has made Chinese in Kenya more fearful than it is necessary.


Other issues

The contract terms of the Kenyan staff at Afristar is horrible. There’s no way for one to improve his/her lot in life with such meagre salary and terms.

“We were told that the three-year contract term was to enable employees to acquire a loan from a financial institution. This has remained a dream because there is no agreement between the company and the financial institution. This is subjecting the employees to no grant and very little limit that cannot afford one enough money to finance a project”, one wrote

Sammy Karuga Gachuhi – Deputy General Manager

Apart from low salaries, unfair dismissal is the order of the day. The grievance management system is crooked and rigged.

“The salary we are receiving is unfair compared to the responsibilities of an assistant Locomotive driver. A Chinese earns a salary of at least 2000 US dollars per month and an upkeep allowance estimated to be 500 US dollars per month while their Kenyan counterpart (Assistant locomotive drivers) earn 470 US dollars an amount that is weird to us. [We earn same salary with the room service and the locomotive cleaners and we are qualified professionals which to us is demoralizing]”, she continued.

The training of staff is also skewed and broken but covered with too much PR.

We have been having training since we join the company through Railways Training institute that have been conducted by various institute from China. Such as South west Jiatong University China that trained the first group from April 2016 to August 2016, (input for group two) and GPI TRAINING INSTITUTE from Beijing China that conducted farther training and refresher course and after completion awarded us with fully certified certificate as Assistant locomotive drivers.

Contrary to our expectations and promised made by company through supervisor of 30KES per hour, our immediate supervisor direct that we would have another test that would be used to determine who would be promoted to take role as full assistant locomotive driver and 30kes per was used to pay Rest at Nairobi locomotive depot.

Bane of Afristar: Were SGR staff complaints resolved?

As a group we decline to take exam under his supervision and take our grievances to high management team that involve general manager since our supervisor had issues of being biased and leaked exam to some who were regarded as his friends this was proven by having privileges and were given more overtime hours than they deserved but the general manager with his convoy overlooked our request and in return we were forced to take exam that was accompanied by massive victimization and unstandardized where only ladies and selected few passed and rest before duty was scraped and 30kes was not honored.

Therefore we are requesting the following:-
1. Provide sanity in this office by providing high supervision to how Chinese are training us.
2. Provide a time limit for us to move from one level to the next with a certain ceilings to minimize waste of priorities.
3. Supervision of examination that would ensure merit and fairness.
4. Ensure Kenyan are doing actual driving locomotive with Chinese driver as instructors.
5. Stop many PR’s that are only done by coached colleagues which are made to deceive Kenyans and the rest of the world via the media.



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