Struggling retail chain Choppies Supermarket has failed in its bid to stop a case in which it has been sued by former employees.
Kisumu Senior Principal Magistrate Robinson Ondieki yesterday dismissed an application by the retailer to have the suit halted until a similar matter is concluded in Nairobi.
“The matter will proceed on April 4 this year,” said Ondieki in his ruling. The 22 former employees of the Botswana-based Choppies Kisumu branch termed the application a delay tactic meant to derail them from their quest for terminal dues and salary arrears after they were laid off last year.
The struggling retailer, which has indicated that it plans to shut down its Kenyan operations after failing to get a foothold, laid off over 200 workers in September last year.
Termination letters signed by the company’s Human Resource Manager Joshua Were cited redundancy. After the workers moved to court, the retailer was ordered to deposit Sh7 million as security with the Kisumu court, a move it had challenged in its application.
The ex-employees had filed for the money to be deposited with the court as they feared that the Botswana-based supermarket could fold up without clearing their dues.
The supermarket is grappling with a major financial crisis and was last year forced to close down its Kiambu branch just days after the closure of the Bungoma town branch.
Kenya Union of Commercial, Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW) had accused the retailer of not paying its workers.
The firm has also struggled to pay suppliers for some time, forcing them to pull their products off the shelves. The supermarket’s woes mirror those of local retailers Nakumatt and Uchumi that are on the brink of collapse.
KUCFAW has sought to be enjoined in the Kisumu suit, which it wants to be consolidated with the one in Nairobi.
“We have a similar case in Nairobi whose proceedings have commenced, and I pray that the two cases be consolidated,” said lawyer Henry Nyumba for the union.
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