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KBC faces revenue freeze as employees down tools

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Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) staff strike began this morning, disrupting normal programming at the state-broadcaster and setting it up for huge losses in advertising.

Radio and TV employees pushing for better pay are currently holding street demonstrations in Nairobi and have presented a petition to Parliament. They had earlier held a picket at Broadcasting House. The petition was handed to MPs Bonny Khalwale, Isaac Ruto, Johnstone Muthama and Charles Kilonzo.

Mr Charles Kilonzo, who is the MP for Yatta, said they would petition the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende to freeze live transmission fees paid to KBC until the staff salaries issue is resolved. Morning shift employees stopped working at 8am and joined their colleagues in the strike.

The company has deployed GSU officers at its premises to maintain order as it emerged that the strikers had planned to block board members from attending a meeting to address the crisis. The strike, initially set for February 23, was postponed to 29th to give time to management and the ministry of Information to come up with a plan to raise salaries after mediation by Information and Communication PS Dr Bitange Ndemo failed.

Early morning, the station’s TV channel broadcast documentaries then later shifted to live KCSE proceedings while radio stations are playing music. Systems were operated by a skeleton staff, which included top management. The company’s board is currently in a meeting at Broadcasting House to find a solution as the industrial action, said a source, which said the strike would continue until the staff demands are met.

They want better pay in line with job grades and modern working equipment. KBC Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya was quoted by the BBC saying that the strike is illegal because the corporation and the Ministry of Labour have not received a 21-day notice, but an employee representative says the notice was issued long time ago.

Yesterday, MP  Kilonzo sought for answers from the Ministry of Information and the KBC’s salaries issue will be discussed today afternoon in Parliament, with the minister in charge Samuel Poghisio giving a ministerial statement. The strikers are mainly demanding to be paid more than Ksh360 million of salaries and allowances held in arrears for promotions they were given but have never been reflected in the payroll.

In addition, they are demanding the corporation to hire hundreds of casuals exploited for years disregarding relevant labour laws. They are also demanding the management to rescind disciplinary measures slapped against employees, including veteran sports editor Elyna Sifuna Shiveka and her colleague Milton Nyakundi, who were maliciously transferred to Kisumu in the initial intimidation escapades.

Information Ministry PS Bitange Ndemo is in India for an official function, but he is expected on Thursday.

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