UNFAIR TREATMENT

Athi River EPZ leather firm casuals protest unpaid wages

Company says arrears will be paid today and locks them out

In Summary

• Some of the workers have been with the company since 2018 without signed contracts, earning Sh448 per day.

• The casuals are supposed to be paid on a weekly basis but this has not been the case since December last year.

A section of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers demanding payments of their pending wages outside the firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
A section of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers demanding payments of their pending wages outside the firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
Image: GEORGE OWITI
A section of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers demanding payments of their pending wages outside the firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
A section of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers demanding payments of their pending wages outside the firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
Image: GEORGE OWITI
Some of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers employees at work in firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
Some of the Leather Life EPZ Company workers employees at work in firm at Export Processing Zone, Athi River on March 17.
Image: GEORGE OWITI
Leather Life EPZ Company operations manager Boaz Orumi (in spectacles next to the police vehicle) explains the payment delay to the workers on March 17.
LOCKED OUT: Leather Life EPZ Company operations manager Boaz Orumi (in spectacles next to the police vehicle) explains the payment delay to the workers on March 17.
Image: GEORGE OWITI

Leather Life EPZ Company Ltd has not paid tens of its casual workers since December 2019.

The workers on Tuesday camped outside the factory at Athi River’s Export Processing Zone demanding their arrears.

They accused the management of suspending their service when they demanded payment. The arrears are on average Sh30,000 for each worker.

“Some of us have not been paid since December last year. Leather Life EPZ Limited’s management has been playing ping pong with us for a long time. It’s time they sort us out so that we go job-seeking elsewhere,” Wilfred Maosa told the media. 

Maosa said the casuals are supposed to be paid on a weekly basis. This has not been the case as the management at times often avoids paying them for weeks, hence the arrears.

Fifteen of the workers said they had been “thrown” out of the company for demanding their dues and replaced with new casuals.

“We have been replaced. The company is running as usual. We fear we might never be paid,” said another.

The firm makes skins and hides treatment chemicals for export and only hires men on a daily rate of Sh448.

Operations manager Boaz Orumi acknowledged that they are yet to settle the payments.

“It is true we have not sorted the workers out but they are exaggerating. We will pay them on Thursday (today),” Orumi said and dismissed claims that foreign investors were to bring the money to pay the casuals but had not done so due to coronavirus.

Some sources said the company has not paid suppliers.

 

“One of the suppliers came to demand payment for the firewood he had supplied. The company uses wood to generate steam in the chemical making process,” he said.

The workers said the management has been giving them empty promises.

“They at times give us little cash as part of the payments to silence us. For instance, on February 21, we were paid Sh2,000. They had promised to settle all our pending wages last Saturday. They didn’t,” one of the workers said.

They claimed the company’s management changed tune when they visited to demand the payments as they were promised last Saturday.

“We have now been told that due to coronavirus, we will be paid next week since the foreign investors who were to come with the money from France haven’t turned up due to the virus scare. This is a lie.”

Some of the casuals have been with the company since 2018 without signed contracts. 

They also claimed that the company deducts statutory dues like NHIF and NSSF but it never remits the same.

They said they are unable to pay for basic items like rent and school fees.

There is little activity at the EPZ since several companies have suspended operations and sent employees home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

– mwaniki fm