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Kenyan unions campaign against workers’ rights violations at Style Industries

10 June, 2021Seven unions affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union are campaigning against workers rights’ violations by Style Industries which is determined not to sign a recognition agreement with the Kenyan Union of Hair and Beauty Workers (KUHABWO).

KUHABWO has recruited 3,811 workers out of a workforce of 6,000 of whom 85 per cent are women, but the company only remits union dues for 70 workers. According to the union, to discourage workers from joining the union, 150 workers were dismissed last month. Those who have remained union members have been threatened with dismissals.

Since 2015, Style Industries, a manufacturer of synthetic hair made of fine plastic fibres that look like human hair, has refused to recognize the union. The dispute was deadlocked at conciliation, and the case went to the Employment and Labour Relations Court which issued a restraining order against the company in 2017. The order instructed Style Industries to stop “victimizing, intimidating, coercing, harassing, and indulging in unfair labour practices” and allow for the case to be finalized in court. 

Further, the court said the company must stop terminating contracts and dismissing union members because of their union membership. The court further stated that the company’s actions are meant to “disorganize the union.” However, despite the firm approach by the courts, the company’s union busting tactics have continued ,resulting in the unions launching the campaign.

Margaret Ndiritu, KUHABWO deputy general secretary, says:

“The management of Styles Industries is anti-union and workers are being dismissed without fair hearings because they are union members.”

Speaking at a press conference after a campaign meeting of the affiliates on 7 June, Julius Maina, chairperson of the IndustriALL Council of Kenya said:

“Style Industries management threaten workers with victimization if they join the union. When they join the union, they are sacked. When union officials come to recruit workers during breaks or lunch time, the employer uses the police to harass and arrest the workers to stop them from exercising their rights at the workplace.

“The management must respect workers’ rights to freedom of association to join, form and participate in union programmes as outlined in the Kenyan Constitution, the Labour Relations Act, and International Labour Organization Conventions 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize) and 98 (Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining).”

“We support KUHABWO in its long fight for a recognition agreement and collective bargaining rights at Style Industries, and we applaud the Kenyan affiliates for the unity and solidarity that they are giving to the union,” says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

IndustriALL affiliates in Kenya are the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers (AUKMW), Kenya Engineering Workers Union (KEWU), Kenya Glass Workers Union (KGWU), Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union (KPOWU), Kenya Shoe and Leather Workers Union (KSLWU), Tailors and Textile Workers Union (TTWU) and Kenyan Union of Hair and Beauty Workers (KUHABWO).