12 May 2013

Ethiopia: Pasta Factory Accused of Safety Lapses, Failure to Pay Workers

Kokeb Flour & Pasta Factory, accused by Kokeb's labour union of paying a lower salary than it had agreed to as well as not providing safety gear and clothes, has been ordered by the City Government of Addis Abeba Labour Relations Board, to submit its defense on May 14, 2013.

The labour union, which has 164 members, filed its charges at the Addis Abeba Labour Relations Board on April 8, 2013. The charge claimed that their employer had failed to provide them with a previously agreed to salary increase as well as work clothes, safety gear and cleaning materials.

Kokeb, established in 1978 in Addis Abeba, was privatized in 2010/11, along with the Meta Abo, Harar and Bedele breweries. ATL Trading bought the factory for 55.3 million Br in May 2011; it also bought Awassa Flour Factory for 49.2 million Br at the same time.

Employees of the two factories are now complaining about several issues. The labour union of the Awassa Factory wrote a letter in April to the Federation of the Food Beverages Tobacco & Allied Trade Unions accusing the owner of removing vehicles and machinery from the factory, and keeping the factory idle despite demand in the market.

The charge by Kokeb's labour union claims that the employer had announced in a letter posted on its notice board in September that the five-level salary increase had been approved, but the increase was never actually paid.

The supply of the safety gear and work clothing has not only been established by an agreement between the company and the employees but also declared by law, the union claimed.

The clothes and gear were supposed to be provided every July and January, according to the agreement, the Union claimed in its charge.

The employees had communicated the problems to the company both in writing and in person, according to the charge, without getting the results they had anticipated.

Eventually the employees wrote a letter to the Federation of the Food Beverage Tobacco and Allied Trade Unions on February 6, 2013, asking for legal support. The Federation arranged for the employees and the company to discuss the situation; it then wrote two letters to the Privatization & Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA), before taking the case to the board.

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