A court in Nairobi has ordered Kenya Railways (KR) to pay hundreds of millions of shillings in salary arrears owed to its former train drivers (locomotive operators).
Although the court did not specify how much the State agency ought to pay, its 197 aggrieved former employees were seeking Sh429 million in a salary increase row that has gone on for 25 years.
Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Maureen Onyango has given the corporation until December 16, 2020, to honour the payment to the employees as well as pay interest from May 2009 until the salaries are paid in full.
“In view of the fact that the respondent refused to implement the court award in cause No 72 of 1995 as well as the court orders made on September 26, 2003, and the Court of Appeal decision made on May 8, 2009, the respondent shall pay interest on the decretal sum at court rates from the date of the decision of the Court of Appeal being May 8, 2009, until payment in full,” Justice Onyango ruled.
The case had been filed by the Railways Workers Union in 1995. The then Industrial Court ordered that the union members get a 25 per cent pay increase and also introduce a separate scheme of service for locomotive drivers.
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After years of fighting between the union and KR, the case went back to Industrial court successor, the Employment and Labour Relations Court, with Thomas Nguti alongside 196 others seeking to compel their former employer to pay Sh429 million.
They also sought a declaration that the corporation had no powers to dismiss or suspend employees who had downed their tools in protest.
KR, in its defence told the court that the 1998 orders by Justice Charles Chemmuttut were in favour of the union and not the 197 employees.
It argued it embarked on a programme to implement the award and had introduced aggregation, messing, stabling, under rest and over rest, overtime, and medical allowances for its locomotive drivers.
It claimed that each of its aggrieved employees had a distinct contract.
Some of those who were fired included Fredrick Ochieng. He testified that after the award was gazetted, the separate scheme was not put in place and the 25 per cent pay increase was not honoured.
He told the judge he was fired for allegedly absconding duty, but the High Court rescinded the decision. The court heard that some of the employees have since died.
KR’s Human Resources Officer Newel Atemba told the court the award had become part of locomotive drivers’ contract, but claimed the increment was staggered, renegotiated, and implemented over time.
Justice Onyango observed that the Appeals Court had on May 8, 2009, suspended the dismissal letters for 12 months.
However, the drivers and KR did not produce any proof that it had extended the orders further. She said the employment of the 197 ended on the day the orders of the Appeals Court lapsed.
“I find that all the claimants are entitled to salary and other benefits up to May 8, 2010," she ruled.