Cotu says tea firms using police to evict striking workers

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The Central Organisation of Trade Unions has accused tea companies in Kericho of using police to intimidate striking tea workers.

Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli said the tea companies are using police to forcibly evict the tea workers from their staff houses for participating in the ongoing strike.

Speaking at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu on Friday, Mr Atwoli said that he had received information that many workers had sustained injuries after being beaten by police officers who were working under the instructions of the management of tea companies.

He said he had already petitioned the Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet and forwarded him some of the photographs showing the brutality and injuries the workers sustained, demanding action against the police officers.

The Cotu boss said attempts by the employers to evict the workers are in total contravention of the existing collective bargaining agreement between the Kenya Tea Growers Association and the union, in particular clause 17 on vacation of staff quarters.

He cautioned the firms against provoking the workers further through such threats and harassment, saying the ongoing strike in is protected by a valid court order.

“Clause 17 on vacation of staff quarters states that nobody shall be evicted from his or her staff house wherever there is a dispute until such a dispute has been reported and determined by the relevant court and such a decision reached, “said Mr Atwoli.

He went on: “This menace must therefore come to an end because the strike is protected by a court of law.”

More than 60,000 tea pickers downed their tools two weeks ago to demand implementation of a court order giving them a 30 per cent salary increment.

The Labour Court had temporarily stopped the companies – Kenya Tea Growers Association Uniliver Tea (K) Ltd, Sotik Tea Company Ltd, Kakuzi Ltd and Eastern Produce (K) Ltd from sacking or evicting the employers from their quarters after they issued a strike notice to push for issues concerning the implementation of their 2016/2017 CBA.

Mr Atwoli urged all the tea workers, who are on strike to stand firm and await for communication from their union officials.