Petro Oil Kenya Limited has dismissed over 30 of its employees after they became members of the Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union (KPOWU), an affiliate of Industriall Global Union. The KPOWU represents the majority of the workers employed in the company. Industriall has criticized Petro Oil for the crackdown on union activities, and has reiterated that it will fight against the company’s unlawful denial of the collective bargaining rights that are guaranteed to workers in Kenya’s constitution and by the ILO conventions.
While the Kenyan labor laws state that an employer is obliged to “recognize a trade union for purposes of collective bargaining if that trade union represents the simple majority of unionizable employees,” the company is seeking to contravene the law by outsourcing the petrol and diesel stations in which the KPOWU has a majority.
Raphael Olala, the general secretary of KPOWU said, “We are challenging the timing and intention of the termination of more than 30 of our members, and the outsourcing of several stations immediately after workers had signed union membership forms. The harassment, victimization and termination of contracts by Petro Oil Kenya because workers would have joined a union must stop.”
Petro Oil has a history of denying its workers the right to unionize. Last year, the union had approached the Employment and Labor Relations Court in the country’s second largest city, Mombasa, to complain about the blatant violation of labor laws by the company.
On December 13, the court had ordered Petro Oil to recognize the KPOWU within 30 days from the date of the judgement. “It is shocking that a company can ignore a court judgment that rules against it and in the union’s favor,” said Industriall general secretary, Valter Sanches, in a letter to the company.
Sanches added, “We are appalled by Petro Oil Kenya’s blatant denial of workers’ rights to freedom of association, organizing, collective bargaining and fair labor practices which are protected by Kenya’s Constitution, labor laws and International Labor Organization conventions.. As IndustriALL we will continue to fight against the unfair labor practices.”