Ex-Workers Accuse Bidco Of Gross Violation Of Labour Laws, Sexual Harassment.

Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo on Thursday facilitated a meeting between former employees of Thika-based Bidco Africa Ltd and the Labour and Social Welfare Committee of the National Assembly to ascertain the circumstances that led to their dismissal without pay.

The David Were-led committee, which deals with matters pertaining to labour, trade union relations, manpower or human resource planning, sat the entire day at the Blue Post Hotel listening to allegations of ‘gross violation of labour laws’ leveled against the company by the over 300 ex-workers.

Among their grievances, the workers accused the company’s management of unfairly dismissing those they disagreed with, working under risky conditions such as not having proper protection gear and not properly handling accident cases within the company. The ex-workers also claimed that the company irregularly remitted statutory deductions such as the NSSF and NHIF to the relevant bodies, something that resulted to some of them missing out on the relevant services and retirement dues.

Female workers accused their immediate supervisors of seeking sexual favours in return for regular selection for work.

“There is a lot of corruption and tribalism within the ranks of the company. For any man to survive in Bidco you have to bribe the supervisors to retain you. The ladies pay them through sexual favours. I was dismissed when I sought for compensation for an injury I incurred while working at the company,” said Damaris Muriu who claimed she was dismissed after falling and injuring her back while on duty.

She claimed that the workers are subjected to long working hours which were never remunerated by the management.

Peter Karanja Ndung'u claimed that, he along with 73 others, were dismissed after airing their grievances to the human resource office. One among their complaints included the lack of a workers’ union and seeking redress to the irregular manner they were forced to miss work. He added that only 65 of workers in a workforce of over 2,000 in the company belonged to a union.

“The greatest misdeed in Bidco is that qualifications do not matter. All one needs to have to work in the company is just the National ID. This has made the supervisors some sort of demi-gods who fire workers at will if you cross paths with them,” said Ndung’u.

The workers claimed that their efforts to seek redress at the Thika Labour Office or the courts were meaningless as their cases were dismissed with contempt.

“Bidco seems to have influenced or intimidated everyone. The labour officer dismisses us every time we seek her intervention. The courts are not helpful either as they always sing to the tune of the company’s management. On several occasions, we have sought the assistance of our MP Alice Ng’ang’a but nothing positive is ever forthcoming,” said another worker.

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Speaking at the meeting, Njomo said the issues raised by the workers were too weighty to be dismissed, owing to the fact that the employees have previously attempted to have the issue addressed but in vain.

“Ours is not to victimise Bidco but to ensure every industry aligns itself to the existing labour laws. We do not want our people harassed for the simple reason that there is unemployment in the country. The weight of this issue needs to be addressed nationally so that every worker, not only those working for Bidco, is accorded their respect,” said Njomo.

The MP appreciated that the giant food manufacturing company has played a huge role in enriching the lives of Kenyans through its products but noted that the success of Bidco should also be reflected through the welfare of its workers.

Committee chairman, David Were said that they would accord the company an opportunity to respond to the complaints.

Bidco management called a press conference immediately after the meeting in which they absolved themselves of any wrongdoing.

Dipak Shah, board member in the firm, emphasized that their labour practices were beyond reproach and at no given time had the company deliberately mishandled any worker.

“As a company, we have nothing to hide as we always follow all the labour laws and the Constitution of Kenya. We will not deny that we may have one or two issues with a worker but that is normal in an organisation as big as this. Otherwise, we have always gone out of our way to ensure we get an amicable solution to any labour issues amongst our employees,” said Dipak.
Among those who attended the hearing included area MP Alice Ng'ang'a, the committee’s chairman David Were, members Samuel Gichigi (Kipipiri), Hassan Wanyoha, (Matuga) and Jonnes Mlolwa (Voi).

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