11 February 2013

Kenya: Union's Fury Over Clinic

Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union has threatened a strike action if the management of a tea company closes down a health facility in Kericho.

KPAWU officials moved to court Friday afternoon and obtained orders against the management of James Finlay barring them from closing down or laying off staff at the Chomogonday health centre pending the hearing of the case in court.

Assistant Secretary General Meshack Khisa said the decision to close down the facility which served up to 20,000 of the tea company's staff and family members was done arbitrarily with no consultations amongst stakeholders.

"We will not sit down and watch while the management of the company shuts down a facility that is funded by workers' money and donor agencies to uplift their lives. Health is a fundamental right for these workers," Khisa said.

Secretary General Henry Masire noted that James Finlay had for the last year undertaken a progressive shut down of most of the dispensaries within their vast plantations from Bomet to Kericho.

Masire argued that the new facility workers were being referred to did not cater for seasonal employees and that it had a smaller bed capacity thus could not accommodate all patients.

After hearing the workers' emergency motion on Friday, Industrial court judge Byram Ongaya issued temporary orders stopping the shut down or the outsourcing of any health services to Unilever tea health centre in Kericho town.

Ongaya further ordered James Finlay to present to court any agreement for the outsourcing of health services between James Finlay and Unilever.

The case will be heard on February 18.

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