Nakumatt Supermarkets has suspended more than 30 employees and threatened them with the sack for participating in a strike two weeks ago to protest non-payment of salaries.
The retailer has issued show-cause and suspension letters to the employees who were among those who took to Mombasa Road, Nairobi, on August 1 to protest delay of their June and July salaries.
Nakumatt, which is under severe financial pressure due to a mountain of debt and delays in securing an equity investor, has suspended the employees from August 15 to August 30 for participating in "illegal" industrial action.
The retailer has also given the employees until August 22 to explain why they should not be dismissed for "economic sabotage."
Nakumatt argues that the employees went on strike illegally since their union , Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW), had not instructed them to do so.
"You are asked to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against you for participating in the illegal strike," says Francis Kimotho, Nakumatt's human resource manager, in a letter to one of the affected employees.
"In the event that your explanation is not received within the stipulated period, it shall be assumed that you have no explanation to offer and disciplinary action shall be taken against you which may include summary dismissal."
Moved to court
The letters, copies of which the Business Daily has seen, also warn the suspended employees against visiting Nakumatt stores until August 31 when they are to report to their respective branch managers.
Nakumatt's Nairobi-based employees held the demonstration early this month claiming the retailer had only paid them a third of their June salaries and had failed to remit their July dues. The retailer has about 5,700 employees in Kenya.
The employees, through the KUCFAW, have now moved to court accusing Nakumatt of delaying their salaries, failing to pay them for overtime worked as well as non-implementation of the 11 per cent salary agreed in a collective bargaining agreement.
They also claim that the retailer has also unilaterally reduced the workers' shift hours from 13 to 10 hours with the aim of cutting down their overtime pay.