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Tea plantation workers set to strike

BUSINESS
By | October 16th 2010

By Stella Mwangi

Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) has reiterated that the scheduled tea workers strike will go on despite threats from tea multinationals.

The union warned various tea companies in Kericho, Nandi and Sotik, whom they accused of threatening and victimising workers, that the strike would kick off on Monday as scheduled.

Assistant General Secretary Issa Wafula said that the strike was procedurally planned and had observed the necessary regulations including serving the companies with a seven-day notice.

“The new constitution guarantees the workers the right to go on strike and hold peaceful demonstrations and management should stop victimisation of workers,” he said.

Speaking in Nakuru on Saturday KPAWU’s executive board called on provincial administration and law enforcement officers in the areas likely to be affected not to be used by multinationals tea firms into forcing the labourers back to work.

“The government and the tea consumers also stand to lose a lot if these plucking machines are left to dominate the industry,” industrial relations manager Meshak Khisa said.

James Finlay, Eastern Produce, Unilever, Sotik Tea, George Williamson and the umbrella body Kenya Tea Growers Association are some of the major companies to be affected by the planned strike.

The strike is likely to involve more than 50,000 manual workers who are protesting the increased use of tea plucking machines in plantations in the Rift Valley.

The board alleged that the union had obtained a notice sent by Eastern Produce Limited to all its workers at the Nandi plantation warning them of dire consequences if they did not report to work on Monday.

“Our secretary General Francis Atwoli will be in Nandi area on Monday morning to ensure that no worker is victimised or faces disciplinary action of any kind,” national treasurer Phillip Oyuga said.

The group alleged that the livelihood of thousands of Kenyan families was at stake as the machines continued to edge out human labour thus denying workers jobs.

They added that the quality of tea picked by the machines was inferior to that of the hand.

“The machines also continue to put the health of plantation workers at risk as many of them have fallen sick or lost body parts while operating them,” Wafula said.

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