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Union rights victory at Ashton Apparels in Kenya

15 January, 2015Over 7,000 workers returned to work on 15 January after an eight-day of strike action. The action was the result of the dismissal of 120 workers from Ashton Apparels after they joined the Tailors and Textiles Workers Union (TTWU). 

The wildcat strike broke out in the Kenyan city of Mombasa on 5 January when workers from several factories owned by Ashton Apparel EPZ Ltd demanded the reinstatement of 120 unionised workers. These workers found that they had been made redundant upon returning from their Christmas leave. They also want the company to recognise TTWU.

“The company has been violating labour laws by denying workers their constitutional rights to join the union of their choice and victimizing employees who have voluntarily joined the union,” said TTWU General Secretary,  Joel Chebii.

The company has also refused to sign a recognition agreement with TTWU and deduct union dues from the union members’ wages.

In a letter sent to Ashton Apparels EPZ Ltd, Jyrki Raina, General Secretary of IndustriALL Global Union, brought to management’s attention that the company is in breach of national labour legislation as well as international core labour standards, including the International Labour Organizations’ Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize and Convention 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

Raina states “it is imperative that take urgent corrective steps to address the demands of the Tailors and Textiles Workers Union. He calls on Ashton Apparels EPZ Ltd to “reinstate the 120 workers, sign the Recognition Agreement, deduct union dues from the union members’ wages, and stop harassing unionized workers.” Should demands not be met, Raina has said that further actions will be taken, including bringing these violations to the attention of buyers sourcing from the company.  

On 14 January a Kenyan court ruled in favour of the dismissed workers and ordered Ashton Apparel to reinstate workers immediately. “Striking workers have returned to work today together with their reinstated colleagues,” said Ezra Ojuka, Deputy General Secretary of TTWU. “Workers have shown Ashton Apparel that the union cannot be ignored and that they are prepared to stand united for their rights.”