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Cotu to sue global tea firms at international courts




Central Organisation of Trade Unions chairman Francis Atwoli. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) says it will sue tea multinationals for violating Kenyan workers’ rights at an international court.

Secretary-general Francis Atwoli claims the companies have for five years refused to implement collective bargaining agreements with more than 300,000 members of the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KAPWU).

Addressing journalists at Whitesands Hotel in Mombasa, Mr Atwoli said Thursday the union has signed an agreement with UK law firm Ozon Solicitors to assist in handling the case in Britain where the firms are based.

“This international law firm from Manchester will work hand in hand with our lawyers here to pursue this issue soon so that our workers can secure their rights and also for these multinational companies to acknowledge us as a union,” he said.

The trade unionist said the companies operating in Sotik, Kericho and Nandi Hills have pushed back attempts to review their workers’ terms since 2013.

“It is now five years and they are continuing to exploit our people, which we have said enough is enough. We will for the first time move to international courts,” he said, adding that efforts by the Cotu and other agricultural unions to fight their case in Kenyan courts hit a snag following petitions by the companies.

“We have won several cases but these companies have decided to challenge them in courts of law. They move from high courts to the appellate courts and Supreme Court where cases are taking long with workers continuing to suffer.”

Mr Atwoli said efforts by both Cotu and the agricultural unions to fight their case in Kenyan labour relations courts have hit a snag following petitions by the companies in law courts.

A three-week strike called by the Atwoli-led KAPWU in November last year led to losses of close to a billion shillings for the firms. The industrial action paralysed picking and sales at the Mombasa tea auction.