Kenya: Sacked Mumias Sugar Employees Fight Back

7 November 2019

A standoff is looming between newly dismissed employees of troubled Mumias Sugar Company and the receiver manager.

The workers, who were fired on Tuesday, have accused the receiver manager of rendering them jobless and cutting their economic lifeline, but cane farmers in the region and traders in Mumias town welcomed the decision.

The former employees accused the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers (Kuspaw) officials of failing to defend them and protect their jobs.

SECURE JOBS

"We had banked our hopes on the union to articulate our issues and secure our jobs. But when we received the notice for termination of our services, we realised that we were on our own," said Mr Michael Kunyu, a former worker.

Mr Hezron Kong'ani, who had worked at Mumias Sugar Company for the past 20 years, said it was unfair for the receiver manager to dismiss them without saying how he will pay their outstanding salary arrears amounting to over Sh1.8 billion.

Union officials condemned the manner used by the receiver manager to lay off staff, arguing that the employees were hired on a permanent and pensionable basis.

"What has been done amounts to intimidating the workers. We want the County Government of Kakamega plus the receiver manager to come and address the workers and give us the way forward. We are not party to this kind of communication where a general notice is placed on the notice board to sack everybody," said Kuspaw Mumias branch secretary-general Vitalis Makokha.

TURNED AWAY

Employees who reported to work at the factory on Wednesday were turned away by guards. Farmers on the other hand urged the receiver manager to recruit new workers.

Mr Fadhil Omulaha from Makunda in Matungu sub-county said the receiver manager could not trust the same people who worked with the team that led to the collapse of the miller.

Meanwhile, the county government wants the receiver manager appointed by Kenya Commercial Bank removed after firing workers.

Through Dr John Khaminwa, the devolved unit asked Justice Mary Kasango to consider the plight of the employees and the community at large.

The court had lifted the order she had issued last month, saying it was not meant to paralyse the operations of the company.

She, however, urged the parties: the devolved unit, KCB and creditors to negotiate and come up with a solution to the dispute.

"There is no way the receiver-manager can work with the same people who witnessed the collapse of our factory. They were used to a lavish lifestyle and would give him challenges in accepting new change," said Mr Omulaha.

HIGH WAGES

Mr Josephat Waburaka asked the new manager to ensure theft, high wages and leaking procurement processes are controlled in the revival process.

He said workers at Mumias were enjoying bloated wages that led to the financial constraints facing the company.

Mumias Sugar Company receiver manager has been barred from selling any property of the troubled miller, pending further directions of the court.

Justice Mary Kasango lifted the order she had issued last month, ordering the parties to maintain status quo, saying the order was not meant to paralyse the operations of the company.

Justice Kasango directed the case to be heard on December 3.

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