Kenya: Union files case for unfair dismissal and unpaid wages

The Kenya Union of Journalists has started legal action against Mediamax for the unfair dismissal of its journalists via a midnight text message and for months of unpaid salaries. The IFJ welcomed the action as a “crucial step in protecting and defending the rights of journalists”.

The case is due to be considered in court on 24 August.

Mediamax, owned by the Kenyatta family, is the holding company for K24 and Kameme TV stations, People Daily, Milele FM, and several radio stations.

The KUJ application said the case was ‘extremely urgent’ and urged the court to the court to order Mediamax to “immediately release to the interested parties salary arrears for the months of April, May and plus one-month pay in lieu of termination notice.”

The KUJ claims the dismissals were unfair, unlawful, unreasonable and in violation of Article 41(1) of the Constitution by deploying unfair labour practices, stating that  “the manner in which the Petitioners were terminated was cruel inhuman and degrading".

“In a show of unbridled impunity and contempt to the fundamental human rights of its employees, the Respondent via a text message sent out in the middle of the night summarily terminated the Interested Parties Employment. In a process that was unfair, unlawful and outrightly inhumane and continues to withhold their salaries for the months of April, May, June payment in lieu of notice as well as other lawful terminal dues," read part of the application.

According to the KUJ, Mediamax has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to subject employees to unfair labour practice which includes unilateral introduction of pay cuts, withholding salaries, and now unfair termination of contracts disguised as redundancy. 

Among those sacked via a midnight text message sent from the company's HR team were anchor Nancy Onyancha and her husband Job Mwaura, Ken Wariahe (Swahili anchor and editor), Isabella Kituri (anchor/Swahili editor), Caroline Wambui (acting managing editor), Shukri Wachu (education/crime reporter), Apollo Kamau (political reporter), Mercy Milanoi (business reporter), Joy Kiruki ( features editor), Gloria Milimu (health reporter) and Kimani Githuku (reporter).

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The KUJ has taken a crucial step in protecting the rights of the journalists who were employed by Mediamax. Media employers must be held accountable when they break the law and deny their journalists their labour rights. Unions are there to protect workers and the KUJ is showing the value of union membership and exposing the unlawful and outrageous behaviour of Mediamax".

For more information, please contact IFJ on +32 2 235 22 16

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 146 countries

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