Kenya: 15,000 Sacked as Production of Tea Drops
8 March 2011
More than 15,000 workers have been sacked as production of tea in parts of Rift Valley declines due to dry weather. About 14 tea companies owned by multi-nationals face closure due to shortage of tea leaves and some of the companies in the North and South Rift have began laying off their employees temporarily.
Tea companies in the region are operating at less than 30 percent of their capacity and three factories in South Rift have temporarily stopped operations until the situation improves.
Kenya Tea Plantation Workers Union official Joshua Oyuga said the drought has caused a serious crisis in the sector where many workers were sacked following the introduction of tea plucking machines.
Oyuga urged tea companies to avoid taking punitive measures against workers.
Jobs dry up as Kenya tea firms to reduce staff
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Posted Sunday, March 6 2011 at 17:55
Over 18,000 tea workers in multi-national companies in Nandi District are likely to be send home this week due to the on-going drought which has cut down tea production by more than 80 per cent in parts of the country.
Some 14 tea factories under multi-national tea firms in the region are now threatened with being shut down due shortage of green leaf tea.
Top managers and officials from Kenya Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union resolved to have the staff laid off as the dry weather bites.
A tea workers’ union leader Mr Joshua Oyuga said tea factories in larger scale tea companies are operating below capacity.
He said staff are working for four days a week instead of six.
“Tea production has dropped by more than 80 per cent because of drought which is worsening by the day,” said Mr Oyuga.
He, at the same time, blamed tea companies for massive staff lay off saying use of tea plucking machines had made the situation worse.
Mr Oyuga said that tea estates which used to produce some 10,000 kilogrammes of tea per day were now plucking about 2,000 kilogrammes because of drought.
Last year, tea pluckers from Tindiret Tea Company burnt down about 15 tea machines protesting that the machines had taken up their jobs.
Multi-national tea companies workers in Nandi, Kericho and Sotik and Limuru went on strike last year leaving companies with huge loses during the two weeks period.
Still using the machines
The strike was called off after Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli intervened to pave way for talks between union and managers in the larger scale tea companies.
But yesterday Mr Oyuga claimed that most tea companies in Nandi among them Kapchorwa, Williamson, Tindiret and Kaimosi tea companies were still using tea plucking machines after sending more than 10,000 tea workers since January last year.
The Kapchorwa and Kaimosi have each 40 tea machines, Tindiret 45 machines and Boit tea company had 30 machines.
Layoffs loom as tea factories close over prolonged drought
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Posted Thursday, March 3 2011 at 18:11
The drought currently ravaging the country is punishing factories in tea growing areas, forcing two to close operations over the past week, as more cut capacity due to shortage of green leaf.
Farmers and factories are staring at huge losses while massive layoffs are looming for thousands of workers.
South Rift region, the country’s main tea producing area with the highest concentration of factories, is feeling much of the heat where, besides the two that have closed, a good number are operating at half capacity.
The current drought has reduced green tea production in the multinational tea estates and the Kenya Tea Development Agency’s catchment areas.
The factories closed are Kimugu and Kimari, which belong to the Unilever Tea Company.
January’s production fell to 35.9 million kilos from 37.7 million recorded in January 2010, due to hot and dry weather, according to the Kenya Tea Board.
The current situation is likely to dampen tea earnings for this year, which hit a record Sh97 billion last year from Sh69 billion in 2009.
Other factories under Kaisugu and James Finlays are operating below capacity and managements have been forced to launch cost-cutting measures.
Unilever technical director in charge of corporate affairs, Francis Kaptich, said the factory is operating below half the capacity.
He added that they were forced to close down Kimugu and Kimari factories because the tea farms cannot produce enough leaves.
“The facility was operating at a loss because the supply of green leaf from our estates has tremendously gone down due to the biting drought,” he said.
“We have never seen anything like this in the South West Mau region.”
Kaisugu general manager and chairman of the Kenya Tea Growers Association, Charles Kipngok, said the company is adversely affected and is operating below capacity.
“We are receiving less and less crop from our farms and also from our farmer suppliers,” he said. “We are adjusting downwards in operations.”
He added that they had reduced plucking days to give the crop time to grow.
More factories are lined up for closure due to decreasing green leaves.
Chagaik, which crashes 110,000 kilogrammes daily, is receiving slightly less than 50,000kilos.
Kericho Factory, with the same capacity, is operating at 40,000kilos, while Tagabi was receiving 60,000 kilos.
Sources said Chamji was the only factory operating at higher level as it still processed 130,000 kilos of green leaf down from 150,000 kilos.
At James Finlays, over half the factories are operating at less than half capacity.
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