Railway Labour Union Drops Strike after Pay Raise Vows

The strike started on the morning of July 18, 2018, which halted the trains until noon

The management and employees of the Addis Abeba Light Railway Transit (AA-LRT) have reached partial settlement after the management agreed to grant most of the employees’ demands.

All of the trainmasters went on a day-long strike by mid-week, requesting benefit package changes to shifts, responsibilities, salary increases, and conveyance and telephone allowances. The employees also demanded permanent dormitory facilities and better meals. The strike began in the early morning of Wednesday, July 18, which suspended all train services until  10:55am. It led to the management of the corporation and the labour union to sit down for a day-long negotiation.

Meanwhile, Shenzhen Metro Group, administrator of LRT, took over operations of the trains and resumed services by 11:00am, according to Dereje Tefera, communications director of the Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC).

The strike ended after 24 hours, following a negotiated agreement between the ERC and the labour union.  A letter from the management was issued that instructed the employees to resume work and outlined the results of the negotiations.

On Thursday July 19, the letter was posted on the premises of the AA-LRT along with lists of approved allowances signed by Berhanu Beshah (PhD), CEO of the Corporation.

“Eighty percent of the 1,250 employees work in shifts,” says Muluken Assefa, CEO of the LRT. “The corporation is not in a sound financial state to cater to such huge demands,” he said, recalling their request for a loan worth 1.5 billion Br from the Addis Abeba City Administration for the procurement of spare parts and to meet administrative costs.

“Some of the complaints could not be resolved within a short period, such as installing new dormitories, and the provision of telephone allowances as a lot of money is needed,” he added. “And salary increments require structural adjustments and studies.”

The AA-LRT has been operational for the past three years.  The 31.6Km light railway was constructed by China Railway Group Ltd. for 475 million dollars. Shenzhen Metro Group is contracted to operate the rail system.

The allowances included 500 Br transport allowances and professional allowances that ranged from  1,000-1,500 Br a month. Shift allowances ranged from 400-1,500 Br.

Employees that resumed work told Fortunethat they are glad to see some of their demands met and that they will await decisions on the rest.

“Some of their grievances are not warranted,” Dereje told Fortune. “Their meals are prepared with the utmost care and although the dormitories do need some maintenance, [they] have shower and toilet facilities that are mostly misused by them.”

The employees have medical insurance of 10,000 Br a year and a monthly salary package of at least 7,800 Br for train operators.

“The strike did not encompass all the employees,” said Dawit Belachew, the labour union’s chairperson. “It was supported mainly by the train operators that did not number more than a hundred.”

The labour union has no more than 228 members.

Tigist Fisseha, a consultant and attorney at law with over a decade of experience at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ethiopian Employers Federation (EEF), says that the labour law does not allow for public servants to strike.

“The labour union has to raise awareness about the labour law and find ways to negotiate such problems without deteriorating into a strike,” Tigist told Fortune.


Published on Jul 21,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 951]



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