Portland to retain 600 employees on new contract terms

Thursday, August 15th, 2019 00:00 |
Cement. Photo/Courtesy

Christine Musa

Confusion continues to mar the revival strategy being undertaken by the East Africa Portland Cement Company (Eapcc),  Athi River after the company withdrew a notice it had issued on the sacking of more than 700 employees.

Barely a day after issuing the notice of retrenchment of the workers and announcing that it would retain a lean workforce from the current 750 employees, EAPCC  management appeared to change tune and said the August 7, 2019  notice had failed to capture critical clauses.

On Thursday, the company had said the sacked employees’ roles would be merged and salaries reduced to keep the struggling cement maker afloat.

“We have a workforce whose total cost, compared to productivity, is very high. Our target is to operate with less than 600 people earning less than what they are earning now,” said  Nthei then.

Employees who successfully reapply for their jobs were expected to take a 40 per cent cut on their previous wages.

Portland Cement had 936 employees at the end of June 2018, split as 448 on a permanent basis and 488 on contract, but this has since dropped to about 800 according to the acting MD.

The company made an about-turn after a day-long meeting by the board afterthe panic had gripped workers at the plant.

The workers, through their trade union had condemned the move to declare all the 750 employees redundant and forcing them to reapply for the same jobs on a 40 per cent pay cut as punitive and unconstitutional.

The unions also said they had not been consulted before the move was taken. However, the movie had received the backing of Trade Cabinet Minister Peter Munya who said EAPCC was as good as dead due to the financial crisis bedevilling it.

But yesterday,  the management said the earlier notice had not captured crucial information in regard to the Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA).

According to the company's acting managing director Peter Nthei, the retrenchment notice issued in the previous notice remains but the declaration of redundancy of both employees on contracts and on permanent terms would re-looked into with consideration of the current  CBA.

"We will issue a new notice in due course to give a comprehensive notice over the matter. Retrenchment remains but we must include critical clauses that will comprehensively support and clarify all the matter.

This is a very sensitive matter that needs to be addressed with a lot of diligence and clarification for all parties involved especially employees,’’ said Nthei.

Sources privy to the ongoings at the company said the cancellation of the notice was prompted by threats from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) to move to court.

The source said the management arrived at the decision to reverse the retrenchment by the EAPCC  management after it realised that it could face a major court battle over any plans to lay off the workers.

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