Trade unionist Francis Atwoli has issued a raft of demands to two British-owned tea firms after an undercover investigation by BBC Panorama and BBC Africa Eye exposed the rampant sexual abuse of plantation workers.
In a strongly-worded statement released on Wednesday, February 22, Atwoli said the documentary dubbed ‘Sex for Work: The True Cost of Our Tea’ exposed the dangers of outsourced labour in the tea sector.
He submitted a raft of irreducible minimums aimed at the multinationals – James Finlay and Unilever – in a bid to protect Kenyan workers moving forward.
Atwoli, the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) Secretary General, demanded that James Finlay and Unilever immediately stop outsourcing labour through the use of contractors.
He added that the two firms should offer direct employment to all employees who are presently under contract.
“Outsourcing of labour affects the rights and welfare of workers considering they work at the mercy of contracted companies and not the parent company. This documentary has clearly exposed the dangers of outsourced labour bearing in mind James Finlay’s and Unilever opted to use the estate managers to outsource labour rather than directly employ these workers,” he stated.
Atwoli, who doubles up as the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) boss, also accused tea companies of using tactics that hinder workers from joining unions.
“Most of the women working in the tea estates are denied the opportunity to join a union that would advocate for their rights and represents their interests.” He said.
Adding: “Unknown to many Kenyans, most multinationals use union busting tactics to ensure that their that their workers are not represented in any union and that they are not in any form of formal employment.”
Further, the KPAWU Secretary General said James Finlay and Unilever must go beyond apologising and issuing their procedural crisis communication as seen on their websites.
“They should pay damages and compensation to the affected workers considering the emotional and health damages caused,” Atwoli demanded.
Read Atwoli’s full statement below.