For the last two weeks, machines at East African Portland Cement factory have gone silent. The sky, which is usually filled with grey emission, is clear.

In the company’s complex, instead of encountering employees in their dustcoats and aprons emblazoned with the company triangle logo, one is met with armed GSU officers with their red berets.

Managing Director Kephar Tande

They move from one end to another while hundreds of employees monitor them from their quarters.

Common sentiment

“Let us see if they can turn on the machines,” an employee tells this writer, pointing at the officers patrolling the cement factory. “We are not going back, never, until our grievances are heard,” he adds.

This was the common sentiment by many employees. The more than 1,000 employees are determined not to return to work until Managing Director Kephar Tande, and board chairman Mark ole Karbolo step aside over allegations of corruption.

The workers also allege high handedness and corruption is rife in the multi-billion cement company.

Tande and his team were reinstated by the High Court after being suspended by acting Minister for Industrialisation, Amason Kingi, to pave way for investigations into the alleged malpractices.

“We want to work but we are very clear we cannot return to work with the reinstated management. Let them be investigated first and if found guilty of malpractice, let the law take its course,” said Esther Njeri, workers’ leader.

Arbitrary suspensions

The workers are angered by the court decision to lift the suspension of the MD while Efficiency Monitoring Unit (EMU) is still investigating him and other directors.

“Why should the MD not step aside to allow EMU complete the investigations? Why is he fighting to come back even after the workers refused to resume work? He cannot even enter the company premises without GSU escort,” states any employee, Julius Bett.

The workers said the management has turned a blind eye on their grievances, with human resource officers subjecting workers to arbitrary dismissals and suspensions.

“We have some officers in the human resource department who need to be investigated. They are a law unto themselves. They threaten and abuse us because they are protected by the management,” said another employee.

In a memorandum by the workers, which is signed by their secretary Jackson Mueke, the employees accuse the human resource department of implementing a policy manual though the same has not been availed to them.

Promoting nepotism

“The policy manual is being implemented yet workers have not been given to read it, despite requests by workers and union,” reads the memorandum.

The workers also accuse the human resource department for colluding with the management and promoting nepotism at workplace. They say employees from some tribes get promotions while others are overlooked.

“The departments involved include procurement, stores, security and health. The human resource needs to be clear on this,” reads the memorandum by the workers.

And as the standoff enters its third week, the company, shareholders and the Government continue to lose hundreds of millions in revenue.

The company, which produces 3,000 tonnes of cement per day, has lost over Sh600 million worth of sales in the last two weeks and if a solution is not found soon, this may run into billions of shillings, crippling the company financially.

By ALEX KIPROTICH, The Standard

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