Employees of the Northern Water Collector Tunnel in Murang'a on Sunday downed their tools citing poor enumeration and failure by the Chinese company undertaking the project to provide them with protective gear.
The casual labourers said despite being employed by the company three years ago, they have never signed a contract with their employer whom they accused of firing them at will.
Led by James Ng'ang'a, the workers said their rights under the Labour Relations Act have been violated given that they work for nine hours a day and that despite working on weekends they are never given overtime pay.
"We have endured the sufferings for a very long time. It’s the high time that the Chinese who have been contracted to construct the tunnel knew that we know our rights and they must respect them," Mr Ng'ang'a said, adding that they will not return to work until their demands are met.
"They must provide us with a binding contract with details of employee-employer agreement before we return to work," he continued.
Mr Ng'ang'a added that most of the workers have been injured while doing their jobs due to lack of protective gear yet their medical bills are not catered for by the company. He said the injured workers end up losing their jobs.
He accused the employer of not giving workers transport allowances while paying them wages which are below the minimum pay as stipulated in law.
"During the construction of the tunnel, we are supposed to move from one village to another but the company does not cater for transport save for a few who are ferried like cabbages in their pick-ups. These inequalities must be addressed once and for all or else no one will return to work," he vowed.
On his part Moses Ndung’u said a casual labourer is paid Sh400 a day which he claimed is too little and must be reviewed.
However, Athi Water Services Board acting CEO Mwangi Thuita told the Nation that the company is in the process of addressing the workers’ concerns, adding that the strike did not affect operations.
"The situation is contained and the company agreed with workers that they resume duties as their grievances are addressed," he told the Nation.