East African Portland Cement Company had retrenched 320 staff as at Thursday afternoon in an exercise which is said to target 180 more before end of June, Writes Linet Minayo.
Insiders say those being targeted are those whose retirement period is about to lapse, those with pending disciplinary cases and a big number serving in contract arrangement.
A senior manager, who chose anonymity, said it is true the company is doing dismally in business and is unable to handle a large size of workforce without taking that direction.
“The company has seen its cement production halted, cement stocks depleted and staff salaries delayed over the last 8 months,” said the manager.
“Our company reported a loss of US$9.58 million in the second half of 2017 from a loss of US$2.45million in the same period in 2016. This has forced the MD, Peter ole Nkeri, to act on orders of the board to cut down the number of worker in the company,” he said.
The company’s plan to sell part of its land in April, this year, in Athi River at about US100 million to the government to remain solvent was stopped by the board.
It had started discussion to sell over 14, 000 acres of land to the newly established Special Economy Zones Authority but the idea was watered down by the board, said the manager.
Our efforts to reach out to Nkeri for further comments hit a dead end when he did not pick our calls or even respond to our messages. He was appointed CEO on August 4, 2016 to take over from Kephar Tande.
Some of the retrenched officers claimed they had been “targeted maliciously” by the managing director.
But those in management defended Nkeri saying the orders to cut down the number of the staff came from the board.
“Those accusing the MD have been serving on a three year contract, and whose contract expired in 2015. The company renewed their contracts for another three years which is now ending this month,” the manager said.
He said under employment and contract laws, a worker cannot serve more than 5 years without being employed permanently. The company can be sued by those in contract if they are not laid off, he added.
The senior manager said the board has been asking many questions about why other companies like Bamburi and Mombasa cement are doing well in business and yet they have less than 500 employees each.
Another staff member, who received her firing letter on Wednesday evening, expressed her worries that the company might not be in a position to her gratuity.
“Banks have been holding to our salaries because EAPCC has not been remitting loan deductions to them for almost 9 months. All the banking rights were taken away from Stanchart and Barclays and handed over to Kenya Commercial Bank,” she said.
She says following that new arrangements, the staff with loans from those banks have suffered a great deal.
“Once our salaries are deposited to our accounts, the banks withhold them because the company does not submit loan deductions. We have really suffered for many months. I have a car loan which requires servicing and now I have been fired and do not know when my gratuity will be paid,” said she.