Workers setback as tea experts barred from James Finlay


Workers pluck tea in Nandi Hills, Nandi County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A team of health and tea experts from Scotland has been blocked from inspecting James Finlay estates in Kericho County in a case filed by former employees who are seeking compensation for injuries sustained at workplace.

A bench of three judges agreed with a decision issued by an Employment Court judge last year, that the team must seek assistance from Kenyan authorities and the courts, before touring the tea estates.

Seven former employees sued the company before a Scottish court, alleging poor working conditions among other violations.

And in 2018, a Scottish court allowed the experts among them health and tea production experts and lawyers to tour the tea estates for what they termed as locus inspection, but the company successfully challenged the move saying it cannot be done without the assistance of the Kenyan courts and authorities.

The Court of Appeal upheld the decision of Justice Stephen Radido of the Employment and Labour Relations court saying judicial aid was necessary as it would ensure that the order, issued by the Scottish court, is consistent with public policies of Kenya.

“Would a sovereign State, and Kenya is one, allow foreigners to walk into its territory and undertake such and related activities without supervision or assistance? The judge found, and we agree, that there were public policy issues involved in the case where the Scottish Court had issued locus inspection orders to be executed in Kericho, Kenya,” Justices Roselyn Nambuye, Wanjiru Karanja and Sankale ole Kantai said.

The employees who sued the company include Elly Okongo Ingang’a, Lucas Onduso Omoke, Vitalis Otieno Muga, Rebecca Mongere Ochoi and Joice Mongere Omwamba.

They worked in tea estates including Tituet-Chomogonday factory, Marinyu, Kaporet and Kapsongoi Kitchembe factory, all in Kericho.

In the case before Scotland, the eight said they suffered physical injuries while at work.

The Scottish court had allowed the inspection to be conducted on January 21, 2019.

They were expected to observe and record tea picking, taking certain measurements of the tea estates and factories, take videos of various activities at the estates and factories and even photocopy various documents.

The company moved to court and Justice Stephen Radido agreed with James Finlay saying experts cannot just travel to Kenya with authority to enforce the inspection orders without the consent of the Kenyan authorities, Judiciary or Executive.