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Labour court orders tea pluckers to resume work

By Nikko Tanui | June 28th 2016

KERICHO, KENYA: Employment and labour relations court has ordered over 20,000 striking tea workers in the South Rift to resume work.

Justice Nderi Nduma said the workers under Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) should call off their strike that entered day two on Tuesday paralyzing activities in major tea farms in the South Rift.

This is after the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) who are claimants in the case No 1248 of 2016 moved to the court under a certificate of urgency seeking the court to grant injunction restraining the workers from engaging in the strike.

The bone of contention between the tea companies' owners and their employers is the Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) 2014-2015.

"Pending the hearing and determination of the application, an injunction is hereby granted restraining the respondents, its officials and/ or agents and its members and or/ its representatives from continuing and or/engaging in any strike and or destruction of property or inciting its members into engaging in the strike in respect to the outstanding issues pertaining to the collective bargain agreement 2014-2015," ruled justice Nduma.

KTGA had also sought for court orders to declare the strike unprotected and KPAWU to bear the cost of the suit. Justice Nduma set the interpartes hearing for July 7.
In her June 20 ruling, Justice Lillian Njega of the Employment and Labour relations court had awarded the workers 30 per cent pay increase. In the award, low cadre workers who earn Sh 10,005 will take home an additional Sh3, 000.

The judge also awarded them a medical and sick allowance of Sh30,000 and baggage allowances of similar amount upon termination of employment.

"The workers would also be entitled one rest day with pay in every working week. They shall also enjoy and annual leave allowance awarded at 6 per cent of their salaries," said justice Njega.

The judge added that the parties will review the 2014/2015 Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) and any antecedent policy to accommodate the union member's rights to observe their day of worship and within reason limitations.

However, in a KTGA's Memo seen by The Standard, signed by KTGA's Executive officer Apollo Kiarii, indicated that it would only effect five per cent increment as it was still reviewing the full economic impact of the judgment and its effect to the sustainability of the business.

"As a result we have made to the court application of stay in the implementation of the order, lawyers from both parties will be appearing before the court on June 28 to present their argument on the application after which an appropriate order would be made,

"In order to alleviate from the length of time the court process has taken an interim of five per cent and five per cent (without prejudice) would be made with June salaries," said Kiarii in the letter.

On Tuesday, the tea pluckers who talked to The Standard said they would not be intimidated to resume work until their employers implement the pay increase.

"How can the tea companies expect us to obey a court yet there is also an initial court order which they are trying to disobey. Let them lead by example and we would follow suit," said a tea picker from Workshop tea estate.

Some of the tea companies affected include James Finlays, Sotic highlands tea estates, Williamson, Kapchorua, Kipkebe , Nandi, Gakoe, Mogusii, Karirana, Kerumbe, Kamiti, Tea Research institute among others.

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