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Tough times as Choppies staff receive termination letters

Tuesday September 10 2019

Choppies supermarket's outlet on Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru.

Botswana-based Choppies supermarket's outlet on Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru on June 11, 2017. FILE PHOTO | SIMON LIBAFU | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

PHYLLIS MUSASIA
By PHYLLIS MUSASIA
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One of the oldest and most famous supermarkets in Nakuru town - Choppies - has laid off its employees as the management cites hard economic times.

Nakuru's Choppies Branch Manager Peter Wachira told the employees in a meeting on Thursday that he had received the information from the bosses in Nairobi and it was vital that he shares it with them.

“It is in the public domain that our trading activities are facing financial constraints and we all need to understand that. The management has really tried to stabilise the activities but still we need to accept the winding up directive,” the manager revealed to the workers.

Tension was evident and anxiety piled up among the employees even as Mr Wachira ordered some of them to check the items on the shelves and identify those that were nearing their expiry dates.

“I had already switched my mind away from the working place and all I could think of were my children. The unpaid bank loan I have couldn’t stop crossing my mind,” narrated one of the affected employees.

UNCERTAINTY

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“My shift had ended at 1pm, so after the meeting I had no reason to stay, I left,” he added.

Another employee said she had reported to work on Friday morning only to find her name missing on the duty roster.

“It was always a routine that when you check in, you spot your name and know the department that you have been assigned to on that day. Things were, however, different on Friday,” she narrated.

The mother of two said upon enquiring why her name was missing from the list, she was asked to see the manager who handed a termination letter to her.

“It was not easy, it was one of the hardest experience in my life and I had no choice but to leave the premises,” she recalled.

By Saturday last week, about 18 employees had been sent parking with letters dated August 31, 2019.

The letters indicate that the termination is due to the reduced business which has been running for several months and the company is unable to sustain the current wage bill.

The affected workers have been advised not to report to work even as they serve a one-month notice ending on September 30.

Those who are still working at the troubled supermarket said they are worried about their fate especially when they see their colleagues leave in distress.

“In as much as we are here, we are not sure of our job security. Maybe tomorrow we will not be here. It is clear that no one is going to survive considering reports that Choppies is exiting the Kenyan market,” said an employee who sought anonymity for fear of victimisation.

NO ANSWERS

The anxious worker added that the most worrying scenario is not knowing whether the employees will be paid their dues as indicated in the termination letters.

“Some of us have worked here for some good time but we do not know whether we shall be rewarded as agreed in the terms of employment,” he said.

A visit to the once vibrant Choppies Supermarket that is located along Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town revealed empty shelves with only a few items remaining.

At the cashiers’ section, only a single operator sat idle as corridors between the shelves revealed no signs of customers.

Efforts to get a comment from the assistant branch manager Peter Mayuya bore no fruit as he remained silent on every question asked.

Other affected employees said they ought to have been given their dues before being shown the door.

According to an employee, the company’s hasty decision to issue the termination letters before meeting union leaders raises eyebrows.

They have called on the Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers to intervene.

Choppies ventured into the local market through the acquisition of Ukwala stores for Sh1 billion and it has been in existence in Kenya for a period of four years.