A court has awarded over 1,000 former Kenya Breweries Limited employees Sh30 million compensation and a one-month salary in lieu of notice after a 15-year legal battle.
The payment comprises of money that KBL withheld at the time of their sacking. The former staff moved to court in 2003 seeking compensation for unlawful sacking.
“It is clear in my mind that the plaintiffs were removed from employment without following the laid down process. Consequently, the plaintiffs’ termination and or dismissal is declared unlawful and (they) are entitled to compensation,” ruled Justice Joseph Sergon late last month.
Despite winning the legal battle, the former employees will each walk home with an average of Sh100,000, money withheld by the brewer, and an equivalent of their one-month salary two decades ago.
The judge noted that the dismissal happened before the coming into force of the 2010 Constitution and the Employment Act, 2007, meaning the employees are only entitled to what is stated in their contracts.
KBL had earlier called for voluntary early retirement but the brewer sent staff home through what it claimed was redundancy after the option failed. The employees said the firm was not in a financial distress at the time and so the retrenchment had no justification.
They had asked the court to award them salaries until their legal retirement of 60 years. They further argued that they were not given an opportunity to be heard and the process was done arbitrarily.
However, KBL defended the sacking arguing that automation of its business and change in its operation necessitated offloading of excess staff.
The firm further argued that it did not discriminate when laying off the workers. KBL told the court that it withheld a sum of Sh100,000 from each worker to cover any debts or liability due to it.