Lack of work contracts is one of the major problems impeding service delivery in public transport, Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) has indicated. This follows numerous complaints from bus drivers operating in the City of Kigali over working without job contracts. The drivers also say they do not have health insurance, adding that their social security contributions are never remitted by their employers.
City public transport is provided by three firms – Kigali Bus Service (KBS), Royal Express and RFTC.
“I have been working for a year without a contract. It was the same case when I worked with Royal Express. We are only given probation contracts that are often not renewed after expiry. We have no health insurance and in case of accident, the employer is indifferent,” said an RFTC driver, who operates the downtown-Nyamirambo route.
Another driver, who works with Royal on the downtown-Gikondo route, said only a few drivers have at least probation employment contracts while others are working without contracts. He added that contracts are often given to drivers who have worked for bus a company for one year.
“We work because we do not have anything else to do. I have worked here for two years, but I have never received a contract of more than three months,” said a KBS driver, who plies the Nyabugogo-Remera route.
Emmanuel Asaba Katabarwa, the head of transport department at RURA, said they are aware of the problem, promising they would address it soon.
“Many public transport drivers working with firms in the country do not have work contracts. This is a serious threat to the transport sector because an unsatisfied worker cannot deliver good services,” he said. He said RURA would discuss the issue with the bus companies to find a lasting solution.
Katabarwa said RURA will soon make it mandatory for public transport operators to give workers clear contracts.
About a month ago, while awarding the best public transport operators in the country, Patrick Nyirishema, the director-general of RURA, said workers safety was one of the parameters in grading companies.
However, city public transport service providers have dismissed the accusations, saying their employees have work contracts, health insurance and their social security funds are remitted on time.
“Some of the drivers might be unhappy with the contracts they have because they are undergoing probation. It takes time to test the reliability of drivers. So, we give them probation employment for three months and we keep renewing it to up to six or nine months before giving them permanent contracts,” said Nilla Muneza, the managing director of Royal Express.
However, Article 20 of the labour law stipulates that probation employment can only cover a maximum period of six months.
Muneza said as RURA moves to ensure that all drivers have work contracts, the regulator should also hold them accountable, especially those who move from one firm to another after embezzling funds.
Anita Mukamusoni, the executive secretary of Rwanda Federation of Transport Cooperatives (RFTC), also said all RFTC employees have contracts. She, however, noted that some drivers illegally give buses to non-contract drivers, locally known as abarobyi.
Charles Ngarambe, the executive chairperson of KBS, said though all the firm’s over 280 employees have contracts, the bus company is always careful when giving out contracts as “some drivers are not reliable”.
“We first give them a three-month probation contract, then a one-year renewable contract. We cannot ignore a work contract as this benefits both operators and drivers in terms of increased worker morale and productivity... However, we have a problem of dishonest drivers. Others run away after embezzling money and join different firm,” he said.
Ngarambe urged RURA to hasten the process of issuing driver’s conduct cards, noting that this will empower operators to hold their employees accountable in case of misconduct or mismanagement of funds.