23 November 2012

Kenya: Textile Workers in Ruiru Protest Poor Working Conditions

About 1,000 Alpha Knits workers in Ruiru Kiambu yesterday went on strike saying they are being mistreated. The tailors and textile workers said they have not been paid their arrears.

They said their working conditions are poor and some of their colleagues have been sacked without a good reason. "We are fed up of the way the company is treating us because we are not being paid our arrears and we are mistreated," said Cleophas Eshiwani, a former chief shop steward who said he was sacked illegally.

"We are also not being allowed to express our feelings on the condition of working." Eshiwani said he was dismissed from work after he refused to take a Sh2,000 bribe from the company management to keep quiet over the problems facing the workers.

"Since I refused to sacrifice the workers' rights, I was sacked," Eshiwani said. Achola Opiyo, the workers union representative, said the human resource manager is "the biggest obstacle" in their fight for their rights.

They said the manager has been sacking workers without giving them their dues. "The workers have said they will not go back to work unless the human resource manager Francis Kangethe is removed from the company as he does not recognise workers union representatives and has been proud and refused dialogue,"said Opiyo.

Opiyo accused their managers of being "arrogant and adamant". They said they have divided the workers for their own selfish reasons. "The company does not remit NHIF and NSSF deductions," Opiyo said.

Ealier, a national union leader went to Thika labour office and held a meeting with the company director and a labour officer. A return-to-work formula was signed in the meeting without involving the workers first while the workers who were protesting outside the company premises.

Juja MP William Kabogo intervened and told the workers that the Union officials had committed the workers on a return to work formula until 29th of this month where their grievances will be heard by the labour office in Thika town.

"At the moment my hands are tied as your union leaders has signed a return to work formula and therefore committed until 29th of this month and only then is when your grievances will be heard by the labour officer,"said Kabogo.

Kabogo told the workers to wait until then and write to him their grievances which he will go to parliament to present them as it was a right of every worker to be treated in humane manner and also the investor has a right which also must be looked into.

"You should go back to work as the return to work formula states that there will be no victimization and should give the seven day period a chance and see what happens then and write to me your grievances so that i can present them in parliament,"said kabogo

However the workers said they will not go back to work as the national union leader signed a return to work formula without talking to the workers and were aggrieved on the conditions of the return to work formular.

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