NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 1 – The Speaker of the National Assembly has directed that grievances raised by striking Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) workers be probed by two House committees after the staff sought Parliament’s intervention.
The matter will now be handled by the Committee on Energy, Information and Communication as well as that on Broadcasting which should present recommendations within 21 days.
The Speaker’s directive came after 248 KBC staff petitioned Parliament calling for reforms in the running and management of the national broadcaster.
Gwassi MP John Mbadi who presented the petition said among other things the employees want is amendment of the KBC Act to allow the station to determine its own editorial content as is the case with other public broadcasters such the British Broadcasting Corporation.
“Investigate the concerns raised over welfare of staff with a view of addressing their grievances and offering a long term solution. Review the KBC Act cap 131 to harmonise the law with the constitution and strengthening the competitiveness of KBC,” the petition Mbadi presented on behalf of the KBC staff read.
The staffers further cited victimisation and mismanagement by the corporation’s managers as the reason behind the loss of revenue and brain drain.
MPs Charles Kilonzo, Danson Mungatana and Boni Khalwale backed the petition saying that time had come for the operations at the national broadcaster to be professionalised.
“KBC is not comparable to commercial stations. It has a duty beyond making money,” Mungatana asserted in his support for the petition.
Kilonzo said it was shameful for KBC to be referred to as a station ‘without food’ linking his remarks to the utterances by the striking staff, who carried placards reading “Kazi Bila Chakula.”
He also condemned a warning issued by KBC Managing Director Waithaka Waihenya who notified the staff that those who participated in the strike would lose their jobs.
“Yesterday (Wednesday) the minister said no action will be taken against those on strike. But on the same day the managing director did give a notice to the staff and said he is going to sack those employees,” he decried.
Khalwale also alleged misappropriation of funds at KBC as he explained that the station was making a lot of money despite the employees’ complaints of poor remuneration and poor working conditions.
“KBC enjoys funding from the government. The financial management should be questioned at the station. Parliament pays a lot of money to KBC already for two years, how has the money been utilised?” he wondered.
Information and Communication Assistant Minister George Khaniri urged the workers to go back to work as the government and management deliberate to resolve their grievances.
He assured them that they will not face disciplinary action adding that he will meet the staff on Friday.