Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union has revealed that Unilever Kenya, a subsidiary of Britain’s Unilever Plc is set to fire at least 11,000 employees in Kenya.
In a statement, the Union’s assistant secretary-general Meshack Khisa said Unilever’s decision to send workers home amounts to involvement in unfair labour practices and corporate greed, promising to fight for the workers to the end.
“We strongly condemn Unilever Tea Kenya for engaging in corporate greed and jeopardising over 11,000 unionised workers’ jobs through a separation exercise that only targets unionised employees,” read the statement in part.
According to a memo sent to workers early this year, the layoffs are in line with a reorganisation plan that aims to make Unilever “agile” in a changing business environment.
“This has been aimed at ensuring we have an organisation that is agile, fit to compete and efficient in our quest to respond to rapidly changing business needs. It is in this regard that Unilever Tea Kenya is offering voluntary separation to non-management employees to be conducted strictly on voluntary basis,” read the memo, signed by the company’s human resource manager Mary Wanyonyi.
However, Khisia holds that the company is not experiencing any hard times, and the move is aimed at immobilising the Union which would give room for the company to mistreat employees.
“The business is up and running, supply of tea leaves as a raw material is in plenty and the market has not shrunk. There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for voluntary cessation of employment,” continued the statement.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court has since issued an injunction stopping the exercise until the union’s petition is heard and determined beginning August 14.
Unilever Tea owns 20 tea estates and eight factories manufacturing an average of 32 million kilogrammes of tea every year.
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