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Unions, tea firms to face off again on plucking machines

Workers at a tea estate in Kericho
Workers at a tea estate in Kericho. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Another round of legal battles is looming between workers’ unions and owners of multinational firms over plans to use machines in tea picking.

Kenya Plantation Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) said judgement by the Court of Appeal last week that allowed multinational firms to deploy the machines “was insensitive to the millions of unemployed Kenyans.”

KPAWU Secretary General Francis Atwoli said multinationals should focus their effort on improving wages of their employees rather than bringing in machines that will render workers jobless.

“As the union representing workers, we shall continue to fight for our members and we shall contest the judgement of the Court of Appeal at the Supreme Court,” said Mr Atwoli in a statement yesterday.

“As a union we respect the judges of the Court of Appeal but we totally disagree with their decision to side with the tea firms,” he added.

The tea firms and KPAWU had been locked in a long running dispute over wages and management of workers' welfare.

The court ruled last week that adoption of machines by the companies such as James Finlay and Sotik Tea Company had not resulted in any redundancy.

The court said it did not see any legitimate reason for former Labour minister Newton Kulundu ordering the companies to withdraw the machines.

“Even if adoption of technology was going to result in redundancy, there was a prescribed procedure to protect the rights of workers which could easily have been invoked,” justices Patrick Kiage, Kathurima M’Inoti and Agnes Murgor ruled.

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