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Workers Union Accuse KPC Management Of Frustrating Employees

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Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union (KPOWU) has written to the board accusing Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) management of frustrating its employees and trampling upon their rights.

In a letter KPOWU/02/KPC/01/22/08/2022 and seen by Kenya Insights, the Union’s Secretary General George Okoth is hoping for the new government to reign upon their tribulations.

Here’s a copy of the letter addressed to the chairperson of KPC.

RE: URGENT MATTERS OF CONCERNS

With reference to the above subject, we have in the past few years held the opinion that KPC management falls short of what is expected of a serious state owned corporation. The historical pattern of impunity. corruption and theft of public funds that has long been associated with KPC is seemingly, still alive and firmly entrenched under the current management whose management style has taken the form of intimidation and threats meant to frustrate KPC staff into submission. This has caused a serious decline in overall staff morale and confidence.

We seek to draw your attention to rising concerns relating to the impact of the current level of staffing in security, administration and operations departments. The concerns arise from the following facts, which have been carefully recorded: There exists a serious shortage of KPC security personnel resulting in overworking of staffs involved. this is further evidenced through an exponential increase in the amount of overtime claims incurred and a huge balance of unpaid overtime claims. We’ve recently handled cases of overtime claims by affected employees which have ballooned with some of them accumulating as much as Kshs.2.5 Million (2,500,000) in unpaid claims for an individual within the space of one year, some staff have been known to be at their work stations for 96 consecutive hours, an unacceptable situation by all standards. This has caused our members to be subjected to audits and investigations through no fault of their own, simply because someone has failed to plan accordingly.

In the Administration department, the company has fallen short of Drivers occasioned by lapse and non-renewal of employment contracts for temporary or relief drivers, some of whom have for the last ten or so years played a significant role in temporarily filling KPC’s human resource gap as far as drivers are concerned. The acute shortage of drivers has resulted in overworking of existing drivers some of whom are working on shift duty and now find themselves assigned to other duties during their rest time leading to fatigue and burn out. Attempts by the affected drivers to resist such arrangements are met with intimidation by their line managers. It is not lost on us that while contracts were not renewed for temporary drivers on account of KPC having an excess number of permanent drivers, senior managers moved to permanently employ other fresh drivers in senior driver positions and whom we now learn, have relatives among top KPC managers. We strongly believe that we can demonstrate that the opportunity for employment of drivers still exists whether on a temporary or permanent basis and that it is grossly inhuman to deny these drivers the opportunity for gainful employment against the background of harsh economic realities in Kenya and against the increasingly positive growth trajectory that KPC is currently taking. Failure to plan for proper deployment of operations staff to new jetty operations at PS14 resulting into the adoption of an illegal work Rota developed in gross violation of the terms of CBA and without prior consultation with the union.

In other words, the company is understaffed, and obviously below the required manpower levels. It is important to note that many of KPC’s current projects are being immensely impacted by the shortage of employees in many aspects, therefore, the quality of work is expected to be compromised. We are aware of the potential loss that can be borne by the company because of shortage of manpower and we can only reiterate the need for an urgent solution to these problems. Despite the lack of consultation on the part of KPC, and to the extent to which employees unionized by KPOWU are concerned. we stand ready and willing to engage in seeking practical solutions for these staffing challenges. We would also like to bring into sharp focus the GM (HR /Admin) whose character, attitude and clear lack of professionalism has been a cause for concern among employees. We believe that her management style is not consistent with generally acceptable dictates of public service. We have had numerous complaints from staff that the GM (HR /Admin) is high handed, utterly disrespectful, rude and constantly talking down to other managers even in the presence of subordinates. Her choice of language is constantly derogatory and commonly accompanied by vulgar expletives. We believe that some of her decisions have caused untold suffering and even death of a member of staff. The union has also established that the office of GM (HR /Admin) was instrumental in the suspicious engagement of a consultant for contracts worth millions of shillings in activities that need not be outsourced.

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The activities have caused heightened anxiety amongst employees who feel disenfranchised as their job security is threatened through a planned redundancy as confirmed by Managers involved. Why does KPC find it necessary to send workers home? Why are departmental heads being compelled to give out names of employees to be declared redundant despite the shortage of staff witnessed across the organization? What does the GM (HR /Admin) stand to gain from these consultancy contracts? We want KPC to come clear on the issue of these contracts, withhold any payments due to the consultant including a payment of 33million shillings currently being actively pursued by insiders within KPC, and do a thorough review of the procurement process leading to award of the contract, in all these workers interest should come first and that workers must not be used as an excuse to award dubious contracts.

CBA negotiations between KPC and KPOWU have dragged for more than a year due to incompetence of the office of GM (HR /Admin) and the inability to relate to the plight of workers. KPC has always blamed SRC for this situation but we have firmly established that KPC is entirely responsible for this problem. this situation has to be addressed as a matter of urgency to save the workers from further loss of pension and other benefits. Despite carrying out interviews and selection of a Terminal Manager ps27. KPC has opted to leave the depot at the hands of an Acting manager who is unqualified for that position and has severally demonstrated an unimaginable level of incompetence. Vide letters dated 26th January 2022 and 14th February 2022, we brought to the attention of KPC, the serious lack of competence in the person of the Acting Terminal Manager, a letter which, to date, has not been responded to making us believe the rumor that actually both the Acting Terminal Manager ps27 and GM (HR /Admin) are related to warrant the cover-up. Recent events at the Eldoret terminal have vindicated our position but have also unfortunately led to the termination of employment of one of our members in what we strongly believe was meant to sanitize the incompetence of the Acting Terminal Manager. Several audit reports have questioned the qualifications presented by GM (HR /Admin) when she secured her position with KPC and we now have reason to believe that she may have given false information to secure her employment contract. We have it on authority that this information was made available to KPC more than two years ago but no action has been forthcoming. We appreciate the reputational risk associated with such a situation considering the fact that KPC had a similar case in the year 2017 and which received wide and adverse media coverage.

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This is the second time we are asking the board to take decisive action and restore stakeholder confidence in KPC as far as management is concerned.

Like any other public corporation, KPC has an obligation to sustain a work environment that provides equal opportunity for all employees, regardless of factors not related to the job, such as age, religion or gender. Such an environment must be free from nepotism and similar family-based favoritism in hiring and promotion. We have noted that senior managers are engaging in unfair employment practice where their relatives are employed in positions that would normally be available for more deserving ordinary Kenyans. A senior HR manager has influenced the hiring of a brother, sister, brothers-in-law, sister-in-law, cousins etc. this is blatant abuse of office and should not be entertained if your rallying call of EQUAL OPPORTUNITY TO ALL is anything to go by. In the interest of fairness, the board needs to intervene and ensure only persons of integrity occupy such positions. We’ve also observed a tendency to incur rushed up expenditure commonly towards the end of the financial year, this points to serious lack of integrity on the part of our management team. This year, it was taken to new heights by a section of management who nominated themselves to proceed on hastily organized international trips and training programs and spent millions of shillings of public funds on what was more of a recreational trip. This is even more insulting to workers as it came against a background of very poor provision of basic welfare services and groceries such as drinking water. milk, sugar and tea leaves. KPC has lately engaged in several contracts and projects, some that we believe, cannot prove themselves to be beneficial and some of which run into hundreds of millions of shillings.

We suspect that some of these contracts were awarded without following procurement regulations. We are aware that for one of the contract (Culture change and HR instruments review) awarded to JKUAT Enterprises, a proforma invoice was presented to KPC well before the terms of reference were developed and agreed upon. We have also noted that there is an emerging tendency for KPC to rely on consultancy services for functions that KPC departments are clearly capable of performing in-house. A review of Human Resource Instruments is an example of one such function. Some of the contracts in question are: Man enough. Almasi women empowerment etc We also wish to seek clarification on KPC’s involvement in activities related to the Mzima Water project. As far as we are aware, financing for this water project was arranged by Treasury and the project falls under the Ministry of Water, irrigation and sanitation. We wish to understand the role of KPC in Mzima water project, the rationale for use of KPC staff, equipment and infrastructure in the project and whether, for KPC. 1 this is a CSR initiative or a capital project. We are particularly concerned that a section of KPC pipeline (Line 1) has been removed and relocated purportedly for use as part of the Mzima water pipeline. As we write this, KPC activities at that site are still ongoing alongside a contractor known as ASSIS Construction Ltd. We wish to understand the circumstances under which this contractor was engaged in this project and whether they participated in any KPC tendering process.

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There exists a possibility that with proper rehabilitation, KPC Line 1 pipeline may still have a serviceable life. Interference with part of the pipeline infrastructure purportedly to incorporate it into the national water pipeline for purpose of revenue generation is an absurdity and does not make economic sense in the absence of a recommendation from an expert economic feasibility and environmental evaluation. We cannot be convinced that a section of a pipeline that has been used for the supply of hydro chemicals for over 30 years can be re-used for the supply of potable water without serious risk to human health. KPC has a moral duty to place public safety before profit and to safeguard the general public who are likely to consume water from this project. By a copy of this letter, we are inviting enquiries from relevant authorities about the nexus between KPC and Mzima water project. We have also noted that KPC Managing Director is extremely preoccupied with these nondescript activities of KPC at Mzima springs project site and we can only speculate about his interest in the Mzima project and why the disclosure of KPC interests in the project remain a mystery to date.

Over the past two years. there has been a gradual removal of millions of tonnes of steel materials and components from KPC premises countrywide. We believe that these items have been irregularly disposed of as scrap metal and without due regard for regulations concerning disposal of public property. We are also interested in understanding the rationale behind the recent grounding of hundreds of KPC vehicles, some of which we are aware, are in very good condition but whose grounding, we suspect, was motivated by the pursuit for justification for a vehicle leasing contract which eventually led to non-renewal of contracts to over 50 drivers. As we seek your intervention and clarification for various issues raised herein, our chief objective is to ensure that workers remain productive and that their productivity is not moderated by forces keen on taking undue advantage KPC’s resources. Our support to government through the exchequer to the tune of Kshs.8 Billion is enough testament as to our contribution to the economy. It is through this same effort that we cultivate justification for improvements in general welfare and conditions of work for all employees. We wish that KPC would redirect its focus to workers and their welfare as recognition of the critical role that we play in KPC’s revenue generation. There is a general feeling that KPC has in the recent past, deprioritized issues affecting workers as managers increasingly use their positions to seek opportunities to derive personal benefit. We would like to be assured that even as we work hard towards the growth of KPC, every employee can look forward to personal growth as well as afford a reasonable ‘ l expectation of job security. It is our hope that you will endeavor to address these concerns, some of which have been raised by the public and which we intend to include as part of our upcoming media briefing.

We remain positive and trust your ability in restoring stakeholders’ confidence in this organization.

George Okoth

National Secretary General


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