Operations at the Coast Bottlers Limited (CBL) in Kikambala, Kilifi County have been paralysed after over 300 workers downed tools due to unattended grievances.
The workers, who protested outside the company's gate on Monday, said implementation of their collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been postponed for over two years.
They also accused the company of failing to remit their tax deductions to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) as required by the law.
A worker, Mr Alex Kazungu Masha, claimed that the company has also failed to remit National Social Security Fund deductions for the last four months.
"We are tired of the push and pull. We have seen the termination of some of our colleagues without notice or warning letters. We are not sure of our NSSF and NHIF payments and more," Mr Masha said.
The workers said they have worked under Career Direction Limited, Asego Warehouse Limited and now Smart Human Capital, who have failed to address their CBA grievances and benefits.
They accuse the latest contractor – Smart Human Capital – of neglecting them despite having promised to address their grievances and want CBL to come up with a permanent solution.
"If they cannot address our issues, we are ready to leave and go home on condition that we are fully paid our dues for the over eight years we have worked here," Mr Masha added.
Mr Frank Boli, a former worker who was fired in February, told the Nation that he still waiting for his terminal dues.
Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers Coast Branch Secretary Wario Mahinda said that CBL has the mandate to improve the lives of the workers by increasing their wages but it has failed to so.
In a letter seen by Nation dated September 24, 2018 addressed to CBL Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Khor, the workers’ union reminded him that neither Asego Warehouse nor Career Direction Companies paid the workers redundancy benefits for 2009-2016.
The union called for an urgent joint consultative meeting on October 11 before the commencement of CBA negotiations which never materialised.
But Mr Khor maintained that they will only pay the workers as stipulated by law.
FOLLOW THE LAW
"I want this place to work, too much talk will not help us. This is the law, let's follow it. We are not against you; you'll get your dues as per the law. But if there are people who are coming here like tourists and want to spoil others, we will not tolerate such," Mr Khor warned.
He dismissed claims that they had not remitted tax deductions to KRA and blamed the union for misleading his workers.
"Staying here will not help anybody, so please go to work. We will solve your problems. There are things we can solve today and there are those that take time. We should be able to discuss and solve our problems in a civilized way," Mr Khor told the workers.
He said that the company will not send anyone home unless one is not working as required of him or her.
He maintained that the company is paying the workers at a higher rate than the staff in Kilifi where the company is situated.
However, the union asked the company to equally invest in the workers through better remuneration.
"We have a wages guideline and Kilifi is in the rural category. We cannot compare these workers at CBL to the ones [in Kilifi]. The company is investing billions and it is equally making massive profits. They should pay the workers better," Mr Wario said.
The company’s Human Resource Manager Faith Kamunya said that the government never gazetted the five percent increment announced in May, terming it a political move.
"Once they gazette, they [normally] update the Kenya Labour Laws website. It was a political move that was never implemented," she said.
She said that the CBA they are negotiating with the union has specific categories which are catered for by the wages guidelines.
The union official, CBL's HR manager and the workers' representatives, later went for a closed-door meeting to deliberate on the matters raised.
Mtwapa OCPD Joseph Nguuri asked the workers to go back to work and avoid blocking the road as they wait for the meeting's outcome.