Town hit by water crisis as workers go on strike
By LYDIAH NYAWIRA | April 1st 2014
By LYDIAH NYAWIRA
Nyeri, Kenya: Residents of Nyeri town woke up to dry taps on Monday morning after the Nyeri Water and Sewerage Company (Nyewasco) workers downed their tools.
Some hotels and public institutions were forced to close down as the employees shut down the water supply protesting the replacement of the managing director.
The town rarely experiences water shortages and the industrial action caught most residents unawares.
The National Union of Water and Sewerage Employees Secretary General Elijah Otieno led the 200 Nyewasco workers in protesting the change of guard at the company.
Otieno explained the contract for the current MD, Mr Joseph Nguiguti, who has been at the helm of the company for 15 years, expires in May and the process of replacing him has been marred by irregularities.
“We have done our investigations and discovered that the candidate poised to take the MD post came in third,” said the official.
The crisis has been compounded by the fact that there are only a handful water vendors in Nyeri town, unlike other urban centres.
Josephine Muthoni, who runs a hotel in the town, said she would be forced to close down her business if the company does not resume the water services.
“I only have water to ensure clean services for a day. If there is no water I cannot run my business,” Muthoni explained. Her sentiments were echoed by other traders in the town.
Otieno noted that Nyewasco is one of the most efficient water services providers in the country and called for the resolution of the standoff.
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“We believe there were irregularities in the selection of the candidate to replace the immediate former MD because he is not qualified and has a poor record in labour practice,” Otieno said.
Otieno said the workers would remain on strike until the management addresses their grievances.
“There will be no water in Nyeri until the management addresses the concerns raised by the employees,” Mr Otieno said.
James Wanyaga, a former mayor of the town and a director at the company, agreed with the workers’ claims that the process of selecting the person to take over from the current MD was not transparent.
“I support the workers because I told the members of the board to ensure the process of picking Nguiguti’s successor is free from external interference,” Wanyaga said.
He said the company was one of the most profitable and critical service providers in the county and the management wrangles were jeopardising its future.
Nguiguti confirmed the strike had affected water services in the town.
“I woke up to find no water in my home. Right now the company’s priority is to ensure supply of water to our clients resumes immediately,” Nguiguti said.
He, however, downplayed the crisis, saying the company’s management would convene a meeting to address it.
“It is not a very big problem. Nyewasco will look into the dispute with the workers as soon as possible,though they did not give us a strike notice,” he explained.
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