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For the second day in a row, casual employees of Alliance One Tobacco Ltd, a company contracted by British American Tobacco (B.A.T.) to run its human resource department, held a peaceful demonstration. The approximately 1,800 workers walked all the way to the Thika Labour Office carrying twigs from Makongeni, a distance of about 5km, chanting "Haki Yetu! Tunataka Pesa!".
The bone of contention is a wage dispute arising from the dissolution of the company which is said to be relocating elsewhere.
The workers claim that they were being short-changed by their employer, some of whom have worked for more than 13 years. They told Thika Town Today that the amount of send-off pay they were receiving did not correspond with the length of service they had served this company.Giving the example of the bearer of the payslip below who was to go home with a net pay of Ksh.47. as her terminal dues, after working for the company for over 10 years, the workers wanted an explanation of how the employer came up with this amount.

"I have worked in this company for more than 13 years now. How do you justify them paying me only sh.1700 as my pension? Some of us have worked for only two years but were paid 2500 yet we were doing the same job. What formula was used to arrive at this figure?" asked one of the elderly ladies who claimed that she only persevered due to poverty and for her kids to learn.
Hospital Ward MCA Hon. Mwangi Wamwangi, who is the area representative, joined to stand in solidarity with them. He led their representatives into a meeting with Thika Labour boss Madam Regina W Kiiru. The meeting was a follow up of yesterday's stand-off where the MCA helped them elect two representatives who would face the directors of the company at the Labour Office. The directors failed to appear, giving an excuse that they feared for their lives.

However, their absence did not stop the meeting. The MCA acted as the overseer and ensured that the employees' grievances were heard and booked as a labour dispute. Since one side of the bargain was unavailable, the meeting resolved to meet again, at the request of the company's directors, on Monday next week at 11:00am.

On further interrogation into this matter, Thika Town Today learnt that today's tussle was not the first one. It was alleged that the company in question was notorious of retrenching its casual workers after some years of service in the guise of dissolution. Those who have worked in the company since the year 2002 when BAT outsourced its human resource department claimed that this Stancom Tobacco Ltd won the tender to contract casual labourers on behalf of BAT. They worked under that name until the year 2010 when they faked dissolution. 

The dissolution led to majority of them losing their jobs plus their benefits. The company then came back in the current name Alliance One Tobacco Ltd, hiring new employees in the process. Only a few of the previous employees were lucky to be re-hired.

 This is exactly what these employees are suspecting. They fear that the company wants to retrench them without their dues only for them to re-brand and come out again in a different name.

"This is exactly what happened in 2010. Stancom fired us and came again calling themselves Alliance One. They did not pay us any money. Now see this (Showing us his payslip). I am a loader but they have indicated that I am a clerk so that they can pay me less," said another employee who did not want to be photographed for fear of victimisation. 

We also heard that these employees had their contract terminated on August 23rd this year with a promise that they would have their dues paid by the end of the same month. Up to the time we went to press, none of them had received their pay. Their bank withdrawals were declined by their banks, even though they had payslips that showed that they had received their wages. this they say was against what they had agreed with the employer.

Well, the employees only  left the Thika Labour Offices early in the afternoon after the Labour officer, their representatives and the area MCA assured them that the matter would be dealt with accordingly. This did not go down well with some of them who felt a bit shortchanged. They went bank to Makongeni and started demonstrating again near their company's gates. Some of them even attempted to block both Garissa and Kakuzi Roads with stones, still chanting "Haki Yetu! Pesa Yetu!"

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