Kenya: State Law Office Writes to Fairmont Over Mass Redundancies

Nairobi — The government has written to Fairmont Hotels seeking clarification on its justification to sack all staff over what it attributed to the uncertainties of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the Country General Manager, Mehdi Morad, Solicitor General Ken Ogeto says the move by the hotel has generated a lot of public interest especially after some of the employees petitioned his office saying due process was not followed.

"This matter is of public importance and great concern to the government and in view of the Attorney General's mandate to promote, protect and uphold the rule of law and defend the public interest, this office will be very grateful if you would provide it with clarification regarding the reports including on the veracity and the justification for taking such action," he said on Friday.

The Attorney General's office noted the move to declared all positions redundant would have far reaching consequences on the welfare of the employees and the country's economy.

"This is therefore a matter of profound public interest, in respect of which this office demands a response," he added.

In a memo to staff, the hotel on Thursday explained that it decided to close down business and sack all staff because of the bleak future of the tourism industry which has witnessed diminished bookings with up to 100 cancellations.

"Due to the uncertainty of when and how the impact of the global pandemic will result in the business picking up in the near future, we are left with no option but to close down the business indefinitely," Morad said.

All major hotels in Kenya have remained closed since mid-March when international flights were suspended and movement restrictions imposed by the government to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Staff were advised to collect their termination letters June 5.

Fairmont is a global brand that operates over seventy properties worldwide.

In Kenya, it operates The Norfolk, Fairmont Mara Safari Club, Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club among others.

The closure of the operations in Kenya comes amid calls from the private sector for the government to re-open key sectors so as to rescue the economy.

Last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta hinted at plans to re-open the economy when he pumped some Sh53.7 billion into various sectors in an economic stimulus package.

He is expected to make a key announcement by June 6, on expiry of the nationwide six-week dusk-to-dawn curfew.

He will also announce the fate of the cessation of movement into and out of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera which was extended for a further three weeks on May 16.

COVID-19 cases in the country had risen to 1,618 by May 28 even as the number of infections continued to steadily rise following the government's move to roll out mass testing exercise countrywide.

The Attorney General's letter is seen as a warning to the private sector to avoid dismissing staff and instead employ other recovery measures.

Some private institutions have resorted to subjecting their employees to pay cuts whereas others opted to send their workforce to unpaid leave in a bid to adopt to a decline in profitability as a result of a slowdown in economic activity.

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