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Choppies supermarket sends home employees as it prepares to exit Kenya

By Kevine Omollo | Sep 9th 2019 | 3 min read
By Kevine Omollo | September 9th 2019
Choppies Supermarket Kisumu branch. The retailer has already closed some of its branches amid stockouts as operating costs rise. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Botswana-based Choppies Supermarket has laid off over 200 workers days after it emerged the struggling retailer plans to exit the Kenyan market.

Termination letters signed by the company’s Human Resource Manager Joshua Were cited redundancy in carrying out the exercise.

The letter dated August 31, 2019 indicates that there are ongoing talks with the Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers (Kucfaw) for a favourable compensation package for the affected workers.

“This termination is due to the reduced business which has been running for several months which you are aware of, and the company is unable to sustain the current wage bill, noting that the business has gone down and is taking time for full recovery,” read the letter in part.

The affected workers have been advised not to report to work even as they serve a one-month notice ending on September 30.

“During the notice period, you will not be required to report to work, but your September salary will be paid in full up to 30/09/2019 plus one-month notice. You will also be issued with a certificate of service,” added the letter.

Through another notice which accompanied the letter, the affected employees have been asked to clear with the company through their respective branches before September 15 when they are set to receive their pay. The new development comes just days after it emerged that the struggling retailer has already notified its shareholders of plans to exit the Kenyan market four years after venturing into the local market through the acquisition of Ukwala stores for Sh1 billion.

The retailer held an extraordinary general meeting last Wednesday, where it announced that it had listed its Kenyan assets for sale besides classifying its 12 stores as distressed.

Yesterday, some of the affected employees said they ought to have been given their dues before being shown the door.

According to an employee, the company’s management hasty decision to issue the termination letter before meeting the union leadership was questionable.

“Once you clear and leave, you are no longer an employee, and the company may delay paying the dues or even give less pay since we have not discussed how much to expect,” said an affected employee who sought anonymity. The union leadership faulted the company for making the termination decision without first consulting them.

Kucfaw General Secretary Bonface Kavuvi said the company had only notified them of the intention to reduce staff numbers, and they had scheduled a meeting with the company management to discuss the matter further.

“The company wrote to us informing us of their intention to declare some workers redundant, and we responded to the letter, prompting the meeting scheduled for Wednesday. It is from the meeting that we are going to question the notice,” said Kavuvi. Kavuvi, however, declined to divulge more details on the pending issues to be discussed following the termination, saying the union would give an official position after the meeting.

A union official said majority of the affected employees had allowance arrears that were not addressed in the termination letters.

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