Rift Valley Railways Ltd (RVR) has suspended operations in Uganda following a mass sit-down strike by its over 500 employees yesterday.
The staff cited unfair treatment and arbitrary dismissal of workers by their general manager, Joram Nyanzi, who they accuse of unfairly firing two of their colleagues accused of siphoning fuel from the fuel tanks.
Last month, police arrested four RVR workers; Moses Mukungum, a driver, Anaklet Magezi, a train guard and Evert Tumuhimbise also a train driver, in Buikwe district over fuel theft.
Nyanzi is also accused of unfairly dismissing two employees; Peter Mutenyo and Francis Bakutayo, for allegedly selling over 1,000 liters of diesel.
Their cases are recorded at Nyenga Jinja police station.
Nyanzi is quoted saying the strike has so far cost RVR Uganda over Shs3bn in revenue.
Uganda Railway Workers’ Union (URWU) president Vincent Makombe has since ordered Nyanzi to reinstate the workers saying “it is inhuman to condemn a person on mere suspicion without evidence of theft”.
For a week now, the Passenger train that carries 800 passengers for the two trips daily, has not been working as a result of the strike.
“We would like to inform our esteemed customers and stakeholders that both passenger and freight services have been temporarily suspended due to an industrial unrest by some of our staff under the Uganda Railway Workers’ Union,” the company said on Thursday in a statement.
It said the industrial unrest is as a result of negative behaviour by a few of their staff whose unprofessional and unethical behaviour at the workplace has been questionable and therefore held under disciplinary measures as outlined in the company’s policies and procedure.
“We are currently in discussions with the Uganda Railway Workers’ Union (URWU), NOTU and Legislative Works Representative to resolve the matter.”
URWU national general secretary Victor Byemaro confessed all their operations had been paralysed and could not go on for the time being.
RVR is the major cargo transporter of fuel from Mombasa to Kampala for Vivo Energy Uganda Limited (formerly Shell Uganda), Total Uganda and Mukwano industries.
It runs services from Kampala to Namanve, through Makerere Business School, Meat packers, Interfreight headquarters, Banda, Kireka and Bweyogerere stages carrying agricultural products and manufactured goods.
RVR is a consortium that was established to manage the parastatals railways of Kenya and Uganda decades after the failure of Kenya-Uganda railway formerly run by the East African Railways and Harbours Corporation 1948 to 1977.
The consortium won the bid for private management of the former Uganda Railway in 2005.