Govt yet to find victims of sexual harassment at James Finlay, Unilever

James Finlay

Workers pick tea in a section of James Finlay Kenya’s tea farm in Kericho County in this file photo. Victims of sexual harassment at the multinational are yet to come forward and record statements with the police or appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Labour.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The government is yet to trace victims of sexual harassment in two multinational companies operating in the South Rift.

The victims, working for Unilever and James Finlay tea companies, are yet to come forward and record statements with the police and have not appeared before the Parliamentary Committee on Labour to shed light on the matter.

This follows a documentary aired by the BBC Africa Eye on February 20, which laid bare the tribulations faced by female job seekers and workers in the two multinational companies.

The documentary revealed that women at these firms are sexually preyed on by managers and supervisors who demand sexual favours before employing them or retaining them as labourers.

The chairperson of the departmental committee and Runyenjes MP, Erick Muchangi, revealed the frustration facing the legislative and security arms of government on the matter as the victims are yet to reach out.

“No one so far has reported to the police or any government agency about having been sexually exploited or harassed and we are looking at ways of getting the victims to come forward for interviews,” Mr Muchangi said.

“Sexual harassment is a very serious issue and parliament is very interested in investigating and getting to the bottom of the matter. We will do whatever it takes so that within 21 days, we have a report to table in parliament.”

Speaking after a closed-door meeting with various government agencies involved in the investigations at the Kericho County Commissioner’s offices, Mr Muchangi expressed confidence that the truth of the matter will come out.

“The fact that no one has come forward to report to the DCI or to the parliamentary committee on labour has to do with the fear of losing their jobs and livelihoods, especially in the tough economic times the country faces,” said Mr Muchangi.

But he expressed confidence that the various government agencies will get to the bottom of the issue and ensure the victims get justice and are compensated for the trauma they have been subjected to over the years.

“The government of Kenya has the capacity to investigate and find out exactly who the suspects are, how long the exploitation has been going on, and bring the suspects to book,” he said.

The committee’s investigations followed a statement sought in parliament by Kericho Woman Representative Beatrice Kemei on the alleged sexual exploitation of the workers in the two multinational companies operating in Bomet and Kericho counties and whose headquarters are in Scotland, United Kingdom.

The MPs got briefs from the representatives from the office of the Commissioner of Labour, the county labour officer and the county security team among others, who shed light on how far they had gone with the investigations into the alleged exploitation of female workers.

It was also revealed that the committee had been told that the exposé is related to a court case filed by former workers of James Finlay in Scotland.

At press time, the team was touring the James Finlay tea estate where they were expected to later hold a meeting with senior managers led by the company’s Managing Director Simon Hutchinson.

Members of the Senate Committee on Labour are expected to later join Muchangi’s team on the fact-finding mission in the multinational companies following the BBC expose.

James Finlay and Ekaterra (formerly Unilever) have stated that the managers and supervisors involved in the sexual exploitation and harassment have been suspended and barred from accessing the firms’ premises until the matter is investigated and concluded.