KENYA – Nestle has suffered a blow after a court suspended the lay-off of 46 employees following their petition claiming the firm discriminated against them.
Justice Mathews Nduma Nderi has restrained the consumer goods manufacturer from effecting a redundancy notice that was set to send the 46 senior and junior workers packing.
The judge issued the orders after a warehouse supervisor, Mr Joseph Kamau, claimed the sacked employees were discriminated against on the basis of race, colour and nationality.
Nestle Kenya is trimming its workforce in line with last year’s promise by chief executive Paul Bulcke that it would improve margins through cost-cutting and investment in innovation.
“Pending the hearing and determination of this application, an order is issued staying the taking into effect of the redundancy notice. An injunction is issued restraining Nestle from dismissing, intimidating or altering the terms of Mr Njoroge’s employment contract,” he said.
Justice Nderi certified the petition urgent, and the suit will be heard on March 10. He further directed that Nestle and Mr Kamau file their responses within two weeks, while cautioning the firm against intimidating Mr Kamau for filing the suit.
The warehouse manager also wants the court to compel Nestle to award him Sh3.8 million as compensation for wrongful dismissal.
Mr Kamau has in his suit held that the firm’s failure to confirm whether he will be retained has left him anxious. He says Nestle has shown intention of withholding his February salary and benefits, and is yet to inform him of the redundancy in writing as per labour laws.
“Nestle has demonstrated an illegal intent to withhold my salary and benefits for the month of February 2015. As a result of the intended redundancy notice, I will be rendered jobless and destitute in my own country,” he added.
In a confidential letter dated January 15 and signed by Mr Alastair Macdonald, the head of human resource at Nestle Equatorial, Nestle said the current workforce structure in Kenya had not responded to set market targets in terms of profit scale, forcing the firm to restructure.
The letter indicated that the affected individuals were expected to exit by February 15. Mr Kamau has claimed in his petition that Nestle based its selection criteria of those to be sacked on race and colour, as it only sent home some Kenyans.
“Nestle has used discrimination on the basis of race and colour in the selection criteria of employees to be declared redundant.
‘‘Nestle has refused to disclose to me the criteria used despite a demand for such information having been made,” Mr Kamau says.
He claims that the company has retained all its expatriates. His contract allows him a Sh133,000 monthly salary among other benefits, which Mr Kamau says he has been using to service a loan.