The Kenya Electrical Trades and Allied Workers Union (KETAWU) has warned Kenya Power against laying off staff as the firm grapples with massive losses for the third year in a row.
KETAWU National General Secretary Ernest Nadome said the Kenya Power Board planned to declare 3, 000 workers redundant to cut on expenditure.
Nadome said the move was in violation of the workers’ rights adding that the troubles facing the company had nothing to do with the wage bill.
The union, he said, will not allow any Kenya Power worker to be sent home adding that should the board go ahead with the plans, a nationwide strike shall be called to paralyze operations at the firm.
“We have information that the plans are at an advanced stage. We are daring them to try. We are going to switch off this country. There will be a blackout everywhere,” he said.
The board, he added, was turning a blind eye to the real problems facing the company adding that the planned layoff was a ploy to bring in contractors to take over workers duties.
“We have seen a shift towards contractors. In every Kenya Power vehicle you see, there’s only a driver and one employee, the rest are contractors,” he said.
This, he said, was unacceptable since the total Kenya Power workforce of about 10, 000 in different cadres and casuals was not enough to meet the rising customer needs.
“It is now taking longer than before to connect customers because the workforce cannot meet the demand,” he added.
Speaking to the media in Kisumu over the weekend, Nadome accused the board of micromanaging the firm’s management while ignoring the workers’ plight.
The staff, he said, continue to work under difficult conditions with lack of protective gear and materials slowing down new connections.
“We have reached a point where workers are forced to buy their own protective gear because the company has failed to provide them,” he said.
The contracted firms that are pushing workers into redundancy, he said, were associated with some of the board members and management saying he was ready to share the details with the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC).
To save the company from losses, Nadome asked the national government to pressure the county governments which owe Kenya Power Sh.30 billion to pay up.
The government, he added, must allow Kenya Power to review its tariffs to enable the company to improve on service delivery.
Kenya Power, which is the sole distributor of electricity in the country recently issued a profit warning for the third year in a row.
The coronavirus pandemic, while not entirely to blame for the firm’s misfortunes, resulted in a decline in the amount of power consumed by industries owing to containment measures such as the dusk to dawn curfew that has since been extended.
The pandemic resulted in the power distributor incurring a revenue loss of Sh5.6 billion over the April-June quarter, according to the Ministry of Energy.
High defaults among customers whose earnings have been affected by the pandemic and the switch to solar energy by some of the largest power consumers in the country has also contributed to the company’s woes.
By Chris Mahandara.