“We met as players and decided to call off everything to do with Kenya 7s until we start being respected and well taken care of. In short, we are on strike.”
This was the bold message by the senior players of the Kenya Sevens team after a meeting on Tuesday.
“We need to be respected and taken care of. We can’t be dealing with the same issues every year and they (KRU) expect us to perform,” they stated.
A KRU official we contacted had no knowledge of the intended or ongoing go slow or strike by the players.
“I have heard nothing about that,” he answered.
It is a familiar scenario at this time of the year towards the start of a new International Rugby Board Sevens World Series. Just before Safari Sevens, players have had to make a statement about delayed salaries or contracts.
On Monday, the players were informed by the team manager Steve Sewe that their contracts had been cancelled.
One of the players said the news was broken after they asked why their August salaries had not been deposited in their bank accounts.
“We were told the contracts had been cancelled when we asked for our delayed pay on Monday. They [KRU] say that the reason we haven’t been paid is because the contracts had been cancelled. The message was relayed to us by the team manager when we asked the reason for the delay.”
In the proposed “new contract”, the players alleged: “New terms are being inserted in the “contracts” and without the input of the players.”
But, a KRU director denied that the contracts had been cancelled.
“We are reviewing the contracts and the players should be patient,” he said.
Asked whether they had seen the contracts, the player replied: “We were not given contracts. What we signed was a letter of employment.”
The letter only had the monthly amount players were to be paid and how long they were engaged. There was no clause of what was to happen when the employment was terminated.
According to the letters, Tier One players were under “contract” for two years and the second tier one year. Tier two contracts were supposed to run up to October this year.
The players did not get any notification about the contracts being cancelled and neither did they receive pay in lieu of notice.
A former KRU Director who helped draft the contracts said there was a clause where KRU could terminate the contracts without reason for certain reasons such as misconduct, and lack of performance.
In a related matter, the players said their bonuses were taxed (which is lawful) but say they were not aware of this in the absence of a contract.
“They say this was the contract between the Union and KRU. Why didn’t they mention this at the start of the last season. We were struggling to negotiate for some reasonable amount of bonus but they knew the tax would take quite a chunk,” a player said.
The player alluded the contract they were meant to have signed was an old one.
“They used the terms of the previous contract but the letter only stated how much we were to be paid and a bonus if we reached the main cup quarters, semis and final. But when bonus came, we were deducted tax.”
A lawyer we contacted said it is a legal requirement that all income is taxable unless it is stipulated otherwise in the contract.
It is not clear how the players were supposed to voice their grievances. Under the present arrangement, the communication of any grievance by the players is channeled through the team manager by senior players.
The team manager then forwards the issues to the KRU director in charge of national squads.
Player knew the contents
A former KRU Director shed light saying the players knew the contents of their contracts. “They (contracts) even delayed for so long after being drafted because the players were reading them.”
He also hinted on how the players’ disputes were handled.
“The Director met with the senior players and solved the issues before they went out of hand. No scandals.”
During his tenure, the players signed the contracts, a code of conduct and letters of employment.
In summation, the lawyer we contacted said it is the right of the players to have copies of the contracts.
“I know over the years the Union often doesen’t bother to supply copies and also players don’t usually bother to ask for them.
What I saw often happening was that players signed the contracts but, the Union often didn’t sign their part. So the contracts remained signed only one part and thus not completed legally. Even now, you will be surprised that the contracts are still unsigned by the Union and that is why they won’t give the players their copies.”
He advised players to demand their contracts or employment letters and then check what is provided.
“Any breach can be taken up at the Industrial Court. By law, an employee is entitled to notice before termination (unless a summary termination for misconduct) and all payments due made.”