KENYA – American-owned Del Monte fruit processor has started implementing reduced working days for its casual laborers in Murang’a County to cut down operational costs.
The company’s production manager Wayne Cook has issued an internal memo indicating that working days for each casual worker will average at 13 per month. But the memo warned that the days can be revised downward, depending on circumstances.
Workers’ spokesman, Stephen Makau, stated that the number of working days has been reduced to only three per month. He states, “We are suffering and going through a difficult time. Our payslips are reflecting zero shillings as net pay. We cannot save and we can no longer be described as workers.”
The workers had planned a protest march to the company’s headquarters but decided to give dialogue a chance.
The workers are calling for a consistent wage or a set minimum number of working days per month, no less than 18.
The company has responded to labor concerns by delaying the start of the 2023 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), which was originally planned to begin in April.
Playing a crucial role in Murang’a County and throughout the country, Del Monte supports the economy by directly employing 6,500 people and indirectly employing 28,000 workers, thus generating sufficient tax revenue.
The company has had a long outstanding conflict with local gangs that steal pineapples from its plantations and sell them off in nearby towns.
Meanwhile, in June of this year, Tesco suspended Del Monte products sourced from a pineapple farm in Kenya that has been accused of assaulting and killing individuals suspected of trespassing.
An investigation by The Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) has uncovered claims that the use of violence by security guards at the plantation has been excessive.
The farm supplies British supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Morrisons and Ocado with fruit products, and is the largest exporter of Kenyan produce to the world.
Del Monte said it took the allegations “extremely seriously” and has launched its own investigation into the claims.
A spokesperson for Fresh Del Monte stated, “We take these allegations extremely seriously and have instituted a full and urgent investigation into them.
“The conduct alleged in these cases is a clear violation of Fresh Del Monte’s longstanding commitment to human rights and the comprehensive policies and procedures we have in place to ensure that our operations respect the dignity of all individuals.”