May 28, 2022
An image of the High Court in Scotland.
  • 700 Kenyan tea farmworkers have won a landmark case in Scotland after they filed an application to sue a Scottish-based tea company for damages.

    In a court ruling by Judge Lord Weir on Thursday, January 27, in Edinburgh, the farmers were allowed to file a class action against James Finlay’s tea factory based in Kericho County.

    The farmers claimed that the working conditions at the company’s tea farms affected their health with many stating that they were facing issues with their spine.

    An image of the High Court in Scotland.

    Following the ruling, the farmers will be allowed to sue the company for damages they have endured during their employment at the tea farms.

    Finlays, which is one of the leading tea companies in the world, had opposed the application by the Kenyan farmers stating that the case did not meet the requirements for a class action in Kenya.

    The tea company wanted the case to be heard and determined by courts in Kenya. Through their lawyer, John Thompson, the company stated that some of the farmers enjoined in the suit had already left the company.

    “As matters presently stand, only 28 of the claimants are still employed by the defenders. If the claimants have any such fears, these are unfounded,” he stated.

    During the hearing of the case in 2021, the farmers through their lawyer, Andre Smith, stated they worked six days a week for 12 hours carrying baskets weighing over 30Kgs on their backs.

    They added that they were paid minimum wages despite the company making profits from their global business.

    Additionally, they claimed that they occasionally requested painkillers from the company which did not take the initiative to inquire why they were requesting for medication.

    Smith stated that the company would have been shut down if they were operating from Scotland.

    “If these practices were adopted in Scotland, it’s likely they would be closed down pretty much instantaneously by health and safety,” he stated.

    This judgment by the Scottish court barely comes months after the Senate intervened over a row between the company’s management and the employees who claimed that they were being overworked.

    An undated photo of workers plucking tea in Kericho
    A photo of workers plucking tea in Kericho County.
    The Guardian

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