By Rwanda Today
A number of Rwandan workers left with permanent injuries while on duty at the construction of the Kigali Arena, are considering legal redress after they were denied compensation and medical treatment.
At least four workers have filed complaints with the Gasabo Labour Inspector, and say the injuries they sustained have hampered their ability to work, yet they depend on manual labour for their livelihoods.
The case could taint the upcoming inauguration of the Kigali Arena. It also highlights inequality in the treatment of local unskilled workers and foreign workers by Summa Ltd, the Turkish company contracted to construct the arena.
The workers who spoke to Rwanda Today said they sustained serious injuries while on duty and despite raising the issue with their employer, they were ignored. And with the project coming to an end, they are worried that they may never be compensated.
When contacted for a comment, the director of Labour Administration in the Ministry of Public Service and Labour, Patrick Kananga said he was aware of the issue and confirmed that three workers had filed a case with the Labour Inspectorate Office in Gasabo District.
However, an inspector from Gasabo 3D, which is also tasked with supervision, Alain Munyandinda, said they had tried all they could to resolve the issue including “conducting dialogues with Summa since March.”
Mr Munyandinda said they were working on a plan to set up a continuous strategy with Summa officials regarding the treatment of construction workers. He assured the injured workers that “they will be treated until they are back to good health.”
Summa officials had still not responded to our queries by press time.
The workers’ contract with Summa says they are entitled to health insurance, but does not provide specific details. The contract also says that unskilled workers should be available to work 12 hours starting from 7am and they are also required to be available to work overtime when needed.
One of the workers, whose case is filed with the Labour Inspector, injured his leg during a night shift.
“After I sustained the injury, I still had to work for two weeks before getting proper treatment. I didn’t want to lose my job although I was in a lot of pain,” he told Rwanda Today.
He said he signed the contract without reading it since he does not speak English or Turkish, which is what the contracts are written in.
After his supervisor noticed that he was injured, he was given minor tasks, which he still couldn’t accomplish. His supervisor told him to still sign the attendance sheet but not perform any tasks in order to be paid his wages in full.
Another worker who broke his hand faced the same dilemma.
Monthly wages for unskilled labourers at the Arena construction site range between Rwf5,300 to Rwf7,000 a day, while Turkish workers are paid between Rwf800,000 and Rwf1 million per month.
The Turkish workers are also entitled to allowances of Rwf150,000 per month while local labourers do not enjoy these privileges.
One of the injured workers wrote to Summa Company in a letter dated May 5 asking for compensation in bid to solve the problem amicably. However, his letter was rejected and he turned to the Labour Inspectorate in Gasabo district.
The Labour Inspectorate invited Summa Rwanda Ltd to a meeting to discuss the problem, but they declined to attend.
On June 26, the inspectorate issued a final statement granting the accuser permission to file a court case against the company.
Even with the cases in court the workers are unable to pay the legal fees for their cases to continue.
The Kigali Arena is expected to be unveiled this month.
The new labour law states that an employee who sustains an injury at work is entitled to compensation in accordance with the laws governing social security in the country.