Rugby stars go on strike
25 October 2013, 14:00
Nairobi - Core players of the national rugby sevens team went on strike late Thursday to protest over delay in signing new contracts.
The strike comes hardly a day after the country's union unveiled South African Paul Treu as the new head coach in a bumper pay, perks and bonus deal that is unprecedented in the East African nation.
The industrial action by the group of about 30 players who are contracted to play for the country every season throws preparations for the second leg of the HSBC World Series in Dubai later next month into a spin in hardly the sort of welcome Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) wanted to be accorded to the immediate former South Africa head coach.
On Wednesday, KRU announced the biggest pay package in the history of Kenyan sport for Treu and the expanded team he is set to bring to Kenya from November 1 when his three-year contract that runs to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, gets underway.
The South African is set to earn a monthly net salary of 11,000 U.S. dollars alongside other sweeteners such as first class tickets from title sponsors, Kenya Airways, an official car, comprehensive insurance and massive bonuses pegged on the hue of the medal Kenya will win at the Rio Olympics.
Driven by the disclosure, the players downed their tools demanding better terms with KRU and despite the administrators quelling talk of a strike saying the issue has been resolved and the affected asked to collect their contracts on Thursday, reports indicate they are yet to accept the proposals put to them.
Further accounts disclosed that the new head coach who takes over from English man Mike Friday, who like Treu resigned after the Moscow World Cup Sevens in June, will be getting more on his phone allowance than KRU is offering some players in the side, incensing the charges further.
"They are wondering why there is no money to pay them well while there are funds available to give the coach better pay in his phone allowances for example," a source conversant with the stand-off said.
In mitigation, KRU said their hands were tied in offering better packages since Kenya Airways, are yet to renew their 4.72 million U.S. dollars deal with them.
Their initial deal lapsed at the end of last season just before the team went to Russia where Kenya finished fourth in the Main Cup, the best performance by an African nation at the event.
"The issue is about contracts, because the players went to (HSBC Series opener) Gold Coast 7s with the sponsorship deal not signed earlier this month," an official at KRU who is not authorized to speak to the press told local media. "The players trained today (Thursday) and some of them like assistant captain, Collins Injera, picked their contracts and we expect the rest to finish signing theirs soon."
It's the second occasion in six months that the Kenyan aces have dropped their tools since following their industrial action in May over unpaid salaries and bonuses in May.