Finlays sacks contractor after BBC exposé, offers his workers direct jobs

Workers pick tea leaves

Workers pick tea leaves: The BBC documentary contains footage showing two contractors, who have worked on Finlays' farms, taking part in incidents of serious sexual misconduct. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

James Finlay Kenya has sacked two contractors who were featured in a BBC exposé detailing the sexual exploitation of female workers at the tea firm. It has also offered the contractors' employees direct jobs at the multinational.

"We have terminated our agreement with John Chebochok’s company Sislo Holdings. All 300 contractors who were working with us through Sislo have been offered direct employment to ensure their livelihoods are not affected – 98 per cent have accepted," said the firm in a statement. 

"We have also suspended John Asava. Both individuals have been barred from entering James Finlay Kenya," it noted, adding that it had reported the BBC's allegations against them to the police.

The company says it has launched an independent investigation to “fully understand what happened and where we can improve”.

BBC’s Africa Eye documentary featured shocking accounts of sexual exploitation from women working at Finlays after its reporters spent months undercover at its tea plantations, which supply the beverage to many of the world’s leading retail chains. 

The documentary, titled Sex for Work: The True Cost of Our Tea, contains footage showing the two contractors, who have worked on Finlays' farms, taking part in alleged incidents of serious sexual misconduct. It shows them coercing desperate women seeking jobs into giving sexual favours in return for work.

Internal investigation

Finlays says it has launched an internal investigation that will first examine the specific cases of exploitation raised within the BBC programme. Secondly, it will show where the firm can improve its approach to preventing and addressing sexual violence, abuse, or harassment across its sites.

The multinational says it has picked Kenyan law firm Bowmans to investigate the cases raised in the exposé. It has also hired Partner Africa, a firm that specialises in identifying risks to people and implementing robust protection standards, to guide the company in firming up its policies to prevent sexual exploitation. 

It said that the experiences shared by the women in the BBC investigation “clearly show that we need to go further and do better”.

“While the investigation is under way, we are reminding all Finlays workers of the existing safeguarding measures in place,” said the company. 

Finlays has promised that the investigations will be “wholly independent” and that management across the company will ensure that the Partner Africa teams have full access to everyone who works at James Finlay Kenya, the firm’s records, and all processes and procedures in place.

“We are wholly committed to taking decisive action on the investigation findings to prevent any experiences like this happening in the future.” 

Finlays was founded in 1750 in Scotland in the United Kingdom. It began its operations in colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Based in Kericho, it is a major grower, processor and supplier of Kenyan tea to the global market. 

It has tea plantations in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Argentina, where it employs more than 20,000 employees across the three countries.