Counties

Judge declines to order return of sacked London Distillers employees

judge

Justice Maureen Onyango during a past court session. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Summary

  • Justice Maureen Onyango said reinstatement would not be a viable option for the 15 workers because of the hostile attitude demonstrated by the distiller.
  • Instead, she awarded them compensation equivalent to each individual’s 10 months’ salary plus other damages such as severance pay and payment for notification of the intended redundancies.
  • On August 12, 2020 employees of the company found a notice pinned within the premises at Athi River factory threatening their continued employment.

A Labour and Industrial Relations judge has declined to order liquor maker London Distillers to reinstate workers sacked on account of harsh economic times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and closure of entertainment joints countrywide.

Justice Maureen Onyango said reinstatement would not be a viable option for the 15 workers because of the hostile attitude demonstrated by the distiller. Ten of the staff were declared redundant while the others were laid off on basis of retirement.

“Taking into account the very hostile attitude of the respondent (London Distillers) that is so manifest in the pleadings, reinstatement will not be a viable option for the grievants,” said the judge.

Instead, she awarded them compensation equivalent to each individual’s 10 months’ salary plus other damages such as severance pay and payment for notification of the intended redundancies.

On August 12, 2020 employees of the company found a notice pinned within the premises at Athi River factory threatening their continued employment.

Retirement age

The said notice indicated that the company would reorganise operations due to the effects of Covid-19 by taking the actions such as sacking some employees and releasing workers who had attained retirement age.

The notice indicated that the affected staff would be paid their dues. The following day the firm sent a redundancy notice to the sub-county labour officer, Industrial Area.

But Justice Onyango noted that the reasons cited by the company in relation to Covid-19 as the basis for its decision to lay off staff did not provide for either redundancy or retirement of employees but only for safe working conditions to minimise exposure at the workplace.

Unfair termination

“The Covid-19 Protocols did not authorise employers to breach any provisions of the law in laying off workers. The Respondent was thus under obligation to comply fully with both statutory and CBA retirements in releasing workers on either ground of redundancy or retirement,” said the judge.

He said both the redundancies and the retirements amounted to unfair termination of employment of all the affected employees.

The company did not demonstrate the criteria for selection for redundancy.

It also failed to demonstrate that the selected employees had attained retirement age as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) or comply with the retirements for early retirement.

No notice as issued to any of the employees.

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