Athi River Mining (ARM) workers in Kilifi County are protesting over what they term as unfair dismissal after a takeover by National Cement Company.
The workers claim that they were relieved off their duties without pay, allowances and compensation for the past one year when ARM was placed under administration by some of its creditors over Sh20 billion debt.
Auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) headed by George Waweru was tasked to run ARM until a new management set in place.
According to ARM Workers Representative, Rama Dzuya Kadilo, PwC signed an agreement with the workers that would allow them to continue working until when ARM’s recovery.
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Part of the agreement was that ARM’s successor would retain 95 per cent of the workers, he claimed.
“They even agreed to retain all the workers but when the National Cement took over, it did not honour the promise. They brought in outsourced companies and harmonised our salary as opposed to our agreement,” said Kadilo.
On October 14, a notice was issued stating that ARM was no longer under administration.
When the news came that a new management will take over the embattled company, many were optimistic that it is a new dawn and the turbulent times were over.
“We thought the previous problems will be over or reduced now that there is a new owner, I am surprised they have multiplied,” bemoaned Kupata Elijah, a worker who was sacked.
Since the notice, some of the workers, majority of whom have served the cement firm for long were fired in, what Kadilo says was not in line with their agreement.
“We have been fired and at the same time, we have not been paid our dues. May the government intervene,” said Kadilo.
The cement firm has a total of 1,100 workers and more than 500 workers were attached to the Kaloleni plant in Kilifi County.
ARM was once among the most vibrant cement companies in East Africa.
Its troubles began in the first half of 2015 when it started incurring losses of over Sh20 billion according to reports.
A local daily reported that ARM which is owned by the wealthy Paunrana family failed to cope with the stiff competition from Dangote Cement and Heilderberg Cement Company in Tanzania.
As a result, its investments in the country failed to generate a return. It started crumbling over heavy debt.
Some of its creditors were afraid that the company would not overcome the debt and placed ARM under administration in August last year.
In October this year, National Cement Company Limited, a member of the Devki Group of Companies took over ARM’s assets and business for Sh5.0 Billion.