KPAWU statement on sexual harassment in the tea sector

KPAWU is an affiliate of COTU-K.

Following the heart-wrenching investigative documentary by BBC on the rampant cases of sexually based violence in the tea sector, the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) would like to state as follows:

 1) THAT the government moves with speed to ratify ILO Convention 190 on the elimination of violence and harassment in the world of work considering this new global standard aims at ending violence and harassment in the world of work.  

  • ILO Convention No. 190 (or C190 for short) is the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment, including gender-based violence and harassment.
  • After ratifying ILO C190 the Kenyan government will be required to put in place the necessary laws and policy measures to prevent and address violence and harassment in ALL places of work.
  • The Convention represents a historic opportunity to shape a future of work based on dignity and respect for all considering the fact that violence and harassment in the world of work remain pervasive.
  • COTU (K) submitted an application for the ratification of ILO C190 on 8th December to the Parliament of Kenya following the pronouncement of His Excellency President William Ruto on the resolve of the Kenyan government to Ratify this convention on 3rd December 2022.
  • COTU (K) has already identified specific articles of the convention that needed to be integrated in Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs). Consequently, three model collective bargaining clauses on Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Harassment have been developed and adopted by the COTU (K) Board. The 3 model clauses are;
  1. a) Model Clause 1: Gender Equality and Equity
  2. b) Model Clause 2: Discrimination
  3. c) Model Clause 3: Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Harassment

 2)    THAT James Finlay and Unilever IMMEDIATELY stop the outsourcing of labour through the use of contractors and consequently offer direct employment to heretofore ALL contracted employees.

  • Outsourcing of Labour affects the rights and welfare of workers considering they work at the mercy of contracted companies and not the parent company.
  • This documentary has CLEARLY exposed the dangers of outsourced labour bearing in mind James Finlay and Unilever opted to use the estate managers to outsource labour rather than directly employ these workers.
  • As such, most of the women working in the tea estates are denied the opportunity to join a union that would advocate for their rights and represents their interests. Furthermore, they are paid in cash and thus denying the government revenue and the employees the benefits accrued from other statutory deductions like NHIF and NSSF. 

3)    THAT James Finlay and Unilever stop union-busting tactics that discourage workers from joining unions for better representation and advocacy.

  • Unknown to many Kenyans, most multinationals use union-busting tactics to ensure that their workers are not represented in any union and that they are not in any form of formal employment.
  • James Finlay and Unilever MUST ensure that ALL their workers enjoy their constitutional right, Article 41, which speaks to fair remuneration; reasonable working conditions; joining a union and having a CBA.

4)    THAT James Finlay and Unilever SHOULD go beyond apologizing and issuing their procedural crisis communication, as seen on their Website, to: 

  1. pay damages and compensation to the affected workers considering the emotional and health damages caused,
  2. unionize all their employees,
  3. stop the use of contractors to outsource labour, and
  4. using outsourced labour is tantamount to modern-day slavery and exploitation of labour in this day and age.

Finally, we are calling upon the consumers of our tea, in the developed world where issues related to labour are taken seriously by their social partners, to come up with conditionalities on the importation of our tea.


Dr. Francis Atwoli, NOM (DZA), CBS, EBS, MBS