Workers at a garment-making company at the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Athi River staged a demonstration yesterday morning after the firm locked them out of the workplace following termination of their contracts.
More than 2,000 workers at the Global Apparel company conducted a peaceful demonstration outside the factory chanting anti-management songs after they were denied entry into the firm.
The workers who had taken a break for Christmas holidays reported to work as usual only to be told to reapply for their respective jobs.
According to an internal memo issued by the management on January 4, 2022, all workers were required to re-apply for their positions between January 4-6.
"All the Global Apparel EPZ Ltd workers are hereby requested to submit their handwritten applications in the usual format indicating line No/section/department to enable us process the application and inform you on the joining date," read a memo seen by the Business Daily.
Agitated workers accused senior managers of violating workers’ rights.
"We reported ready for work but we were turned away. How can you be forced to re-apply for a job that you have been doing for the last five years? This amounts to violation of our rights and a ploy to deny us our dues," said John Makori, a worker.
Unlike other companies within the zone where workers renew contracts annually, Global Apparel management has instead been compelling its staff to renew contracts every three months.
The workers claimed the employer has also failed to pay them accruing benefits including collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and leave days.
The workers held hostage a human resources manager and senior officer for more than four hours before they were rescued by Athi River Deputy County Commissioner Charles Wambugu with the help of police officers.
The workers also accused some senior managers of demanding bribes to offer employment.
"We are usually sexual harassed by senior managers," said one of the employees.
EPZ workers' Tailor's and Textile Union said they had received numerous complaints from workers on rights violations.
The union said it would move to court to sue the company over “gross misconduct”.