Online retailer Wasoko barred from laying off nine employees

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Tech start-up Wasoko has been stopped from declaring nine employees redundant ahead of merger plans with a firm based in Egypt.

The Employment and Labour Relations Court granted the nine employees interim orders on January 31, which were extended on February 5 by Justice Nzioki wa Makau.

The employees alleged that the start-up, which deals in fast-moving consumer goods, commenced the redundancy process in December, with plans to merge with MaxAB Limited.

They informed the court that they stand to suffer substantially and irreparably if their application is not heard urgently and the reliefs sought granted. The workers want the court to compel the employer to address their grievances before their roles are handed over to new employees.

“That the notices informed the claimants that they had been declared redundant because the company was going through a reorganisation process occasioned by the change in business environment necessitating it to align with its business strategy and operational requirements,” said Dennis Kimanthi, one of the employees, in an affidavit.

He further said the notices informed them that the company had considered all alternatives for reassigning them to other roles but none of the alternatives were viable.

The court directed the case to be heard on February 13.

In response, the company said the application does not meet the threshold for granting interim reliefs, as their case has no probability of success.

The company further said the nine employees have not established that the harm they will suffer cannot be compensated by way of damages.

“This application has been filed prematurely before the legal issues have crystallised and before the redundancy process completed. Presently, the applicants have not established a cause of action,” the firm said through the law firm of MW & Company Advocates.

The employees stated that the company commenced the redundancy process in December after they were served with notices.

The notices informed them that they had been declared redundant because the company was going through a reorganization process occasioned by the change in business environment necessitating it to align with its business strategy and operational requirements.

After receipt of the notices, the employees held several consultative meetings with their employer on their packages.

However, before they had a chance to have their grievances addressed, the company allegedly asked them to hand over or shadow their roles to the agents sent by MaxAB Ltd.

The firm allegedly went ahead and advertised the positions that they had declared redundant on their LinkedIn page while supporting the merger.

Despite the vacancies being advertised for placement in Egypt, the company did not give them the opportunity to take up for the roles in the consultative meetings.

They also claimed that none of the redundancy notices were forwarded to the labour office for their information and records as required by the Employment Act.

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