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Nairobi, Kilifi, Kitale Tuskys staff face job losses after court nod

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Tuskys Supermarket at the City Stadium Roundabout, Nairobi. The retailer is opening an outlet in Ngong Town. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • Struggling retail chain, Tuskys Supermarket, has received a court's nod to lay off its employees in four branches in its bid to contain its operating.
  • The 80 workers are stationed at the retailer's Mombasa, Kilifi, Nairobi CBD and Kitale branches
  • They were among the 174 employees declared redundant in May last year.

Struggling retail chain, Tuskys Supermarket, has received a court's nod to lay off its employees in four branches in its bid to contain its operating.

Justice Maureen Onyango of the Employment and Labour Relations court dismissed a case filed by the Kenya Union of Commercial, Food and Allied Workers (KUCFAW), which claimed that the planned layoffs of 80 unionisable employees was unlawful and non-procedural.

The 80 workers are stationed at the retailer's Mombasa, Kilifi, Nairobi CBD and Kitale branches

They were among the 174 employees declared redundant in May last year.

The union had contended that the decision to terminate their employment had already been arrived at prior to the supermarket's decision to declare the positions redundant.

It further argued that the intention was to work with outsourced labour, a move it termed as unfair, discriminatory and unlawful.

But justice Onyango found the defence tabled by Tuskys compelling, noting that it complied with the law (Employment Act) when issuing the redundancy notices.

She said that Tuskys sent the notices to the County Labour Officer and the union on May 22, 2020.

The notices communicated its intention to close its branches at Digo Road in Mombasa, Mtwapa in Kilifi, Tom Mboya in Nairobi CBD and Megacity in Kitale.

The notices attached the names of the affected staff and the redundancies were to be effected on June 20, 2020.

“The notices thus complied with Section 40(1)(a) in terms of notification to the union and local labour officer, giving reasons and extent of the redundancy. The letters addressed to the individual employees were also copied to the local labour officer and the union and therefore were in compliance with the law,” said the judge.

In its defence, the supermarket chain told the court that it was no longer feasible to transfer services of the staff affected by the redundancy to other branches considering the overall poor performance of its operations countrywide.

It submitted that the process was not discriminatory as claimed by the union insisting that out of the 174 employees declared redundant, 94 were non-unionised.

It also urged the court to take judicial notice of its widely reported financial crisis that had culminated in numerous seizures by landlords, suppliers and other creditors leaving it on the brink of insolvency and liquidation.

The court heard that owing to financial difficulties, it was forced to shut down branches and subsequently declare staff in the outlets redundant.

The judge also declined the union's request for an order to restrain the retail chain from declaring the unionisable employees redundant due to Covid-19 pandemic.