Atwoli now takes tea companies' labour row to UK courts

Central Organizing of Trade Unions (COTU-K) Secretary general Francis Atwoli during the opening of Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) workshop on Thursday 13 2018.The workshop is meant to share experience learning from different member countries. [Photo: David Njaaga,Standard]

The Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) has instructed a British law firm to file a case on the tea workers’ pay impasse in the UK court.

Cotu and the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) said a Manchester-based law firm, Ozon Solicitor, would work with local law firms in the case.

General Secretary Francis Atwoli said Cotu would also lobby UK tea buyers to boycott exports from the multinational firms in Kenya over the employees' poor pay. He said they opted to file the case in the UK because the local judicial process was "tedious and taking too long."

“We have instructed a highly specialised English litigation law firm based in Manchester, Ozon Solicitors, to work with local lawyers Mckevran Law Chambers to undertake a detailed assessment with a view of taking group action before the High Courts in the UK,” said Atwoli yesterday in Mombasa. “We believe this is the best way to achieve justice for our members.”

Cotu has also written to the International Labour Organisation to complain about the firms’ alleged violation of their workers’ rights. The tea pluckers allied to the KPAWU and firms are embroiled in a legal dispute over pay.

Early this year, the Court of Appeal overturned a Labour Court ruling by the Industrial Court Judge Lillian Njega granting tea workers a 30 per cent pay rise.

The appellate court revised the pay rise by 16 per cent for 2014 and 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Mr Atwoli claimed the firms were using local courts to renege  on the CBA promise. “They are doing this knowing well that in the process, some workers will retire, die, get sacked or be declared redundant because they are importing plucking machines,” said Atwoli.

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