West Kenya Sugar Company’s Sales Store Manager stationed at the company’s Nairobi Branch, Sunnil Patel is on the spot for all the wrong reasons after several employees of the company came out to lament that he has been the sole impediment and cause of the difficulties many, if not all, undergo at their work stations.
Employees who spoke to us on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter and the consequences they may face after giving us the details, disclose that Mr Patel who is a senior at the Kabras Sugar brand maker’s go-down rented facility at Timsales premises in Nairobi has not only been acting rude, arrogant, abusive and non-cooperative to them, but has also been stripping half naked before them with no provocation at all.
Armed with evidence which is in our possession, it emerged that Patel shouts unprintable profanities at workers to an extent that he strips to half naked while abusing them using names bordering on sexual harassment.
‘It is sad that we are undergoing such in the midst of the City. He has no qualms calling you a ‘nugu’ (monkey) before people and threatening to fire you if you don’t do as he says. He is fond of using that word anywhere, everywhere, on anyone without a care,’ said one employee who sought anonymity.
A point in case is when he stripped to half naked right at the reception shouting the unprintable words to the workers.
The above is contrary to the Employment Act that stipulates that;
6. Sexual harassment
(1) An employee is sexually harassed if the employer of that employee or a representative of that employer or a co-worker—
(a) directly or indirectly requests that employee for sexual intercourse, sexual contact or any other form of sexual activity that contains an implied or express—
(i) promise of preferential treatment in employment;
(ii) threat of detrimental treatment in employment; or
(iii) threat about the present or future employment status of the employee;
(b) uses language whether written or spoken of a sexual nature;
(c) uses visual material of a sexual nature; or
(d) shows physical behaviour of a sexual nature which directly or indirectly subjects the employee to behaviour that is unwelcome or offensive to that employee and that by its nature has a detrimental effect on that employee’s employment, job performance, or job satisfaction.
The employees are also lamenting that Patel has been ensuring that workers at the facility work from morning to evening without a lunch break.
‘Ndugu zangu kazi huko ni ngumu. Imagine unabeba sukari gunia kilo hamsini kwa mgongo na hapo anakuambia ukimbie nayo hadi kwa gari. Hiyo ni kuanzia asubuhi hadi jioni na hakuna kuenda lunch!’ said one worker amid sobs.
That loosely translates to mean that the workers work from early morning into late evening without lunch breaks. Work at the facility entails one carrying a 50kg bag of sugar from the store to the trucks while running. One is paid Shs 2 per bag he loads into the truck.
Remember, the Company which is owned by Jaswant Singh Rai, has maintained the dominant position in the sugar market since the collapse of some other sugar companies in the country.
At one point, the dejected employees say that Patel engineered the sacking of several workers who had demanded for a pay hike of which they only asked to be added a few shillings on top on what they were earning per bag that they loaded onto the trucks. Patel made a call and called some youth who stormed the store and evicted the workers who were in a go slow.
The employees are also not in any union as they say Patel will not tolerate anyone who is in any union.
Evidence in our possession also indicate that at some point, Patel engineered change of contracts from the company and hired an agent who took over control of employee matters at the branch. He brought on board HMD (HandyMan Staffing Solutions) that the employees are lamenting of escalating their woes. For instance, they say HMD after sweet talking them into signing new contracts, the employees have not been paid their overtime dues, house allowances and many more. They say, Patel brought on board HMD to efficiently stifle their way of dealing with their pleas and expressly delink them from the main company, West Kenya Sugar Company, which many of them signed initial contacts with.
The same is against the Employment Act that states that;
(2) A written contract of service shall state—
(a) the name, age, permanent address and sex of the employee;
(b) the name of the employer;
(c) the job description of the employment;
(d) the date of commencement of the employment;
(e) the form and duration of the contract;
(f) the place of work;
(g) the hours of work;
(h) the remuneration, scale or rate of remuneration, the method of
calculating that remuneration and details of any other benefits;
(i) the intervals at which remuneration is paid; and
(j) the date on which the employee’s period of continuous employment
began, taking into account any employment with a previous
employer which counts towards that period; and
(k) any other prescribed matter.
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‘Some of us were adamant and did not want to sign new contracts with HMD. We had signed binding contracts with West Kenya Sugar Company. We do not know up until now the criteria he used to have us sign the new ones. We get paid on the last day of every month. They waited until when it was a day to getting our salaries that is when they brought the new contracts and told us whoever was not going to sign was not going to get paid. We obliged albeit begrudgingly. Who lives in Nairobi without pay?’ One explained.
Patel is not alone in all this. He has a senior in the facility who always comes to his rescue whenever things seem to get out of control. One Hema Patel.
The workers who spoke to our desk say that Hema is not only extremely arrogant and rude to her employees but also very racial and discriminatory.
At the office shop, that is wher her authority, if she has any, is felt by all. Our moles say she gives priority to salesmen from Asian origin that come for orders be it that they came late or not. They lamented that she takes too long to attend to orders going to African origin Salesmen.
A case in point, our moles with evidence say, is the I.P.O.S withdrawal by customers of African salesmen. They also disclosed that she fights all African origin’s benefits from company to workers and gives no audience to any acrimony or grievance raised to her. They also say she is the reason workers at the facility go on leave without pay as she has instilled unnecessary fear on employees.
Workers at the facility also work in very unconducive environment. Despite the world, sane and insane people knowing that there is a pandemic in the name of Covid-19, workers at the facility go about without safety gears. The workers work without Overalls, Dust Coats, Rain Coats, Reflector Jackets, Aprons, Rider Suits, Vests, boots and many more.
After it emerged to them that the misdeeds at the facility had reached the media, on Monday 14th June 2021, the management at the facility ordered all workers who were reporting on duty to leave their phones switched off at the entrance.
Several workers who did not want to heed to the new and parochial directive protested the move leading to stalling of work at the go-down for hours on end. Our mole tells us that those who agreed with the new directive were allowed entry and proceeded to work while those that did not bow to pressure were not allowed and were eventually sacked from work.
The workers at the facility do not enjoy benefits like the National Social and Security Fund (NSSF) and the National Hospital and Insurance Fund (NHIF).
The employees are now demanding the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services to look into the matter to ensure that their grievances are heard and addressed.
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