By Tony Wafula
The County Government of Bungoma has until July 13, this year to hire all the 463 casual labourers on permanent and pension terms.
This is an order that was made by Justice Mathews Nduma Nderi of the Employment and the Labour Relations Court. The judgement was delivered online due to the Covid19 pandemic.
The casual labourers had worked for the devolved unit for the last seven years without pay as well as being issued with official job contracts. The 463 casual laborers are spread across the different departments of the County Government.
Only a handful of them had been employed on permanent terms.
Justice Nderi made the ruling on May 13, this year in Nairobi. Officials from the Kenya County Government Workers Union, Bungoma branch on April 1, last year, filed the case at the Employment and the Labour Relations Court in Bungoma.
Bungoma County Public Service Board and the County Government of Bungoma were listed as the first and the second respondents respectively in the suit.
“The grievants on whose behalf the petition has been brought were employed on casual terms and issued letters of appointment by the then local governments on various dates before the promulgation of the present constitution 2010. The local governments are now defunct and replaced by the County Government of Bungoma,” reads part of the ruling.
The ruling further reads: “That some of the casual employees were confirmed to permanent and pensionable terms. That there is no justification given for leaving out the rest of the casual workers in the same place as those confirmed. That the discrimination may only be explained by nepotism, and favoritism contrary to the provisions of 2010 constitution,”
According to Justice Nderi, the casual labourers have remained on casual terms for over seven years, which is contrary to the Employment Act of 2007.
In his ruling, he stated that any casual who has remained in employment for a period of more than three months and are paid their wages on a monthly basis are deemed to have been converted to protected permanent employees and are entitled to the protection.
“That the respondent has unlawfully recalled erstwhile letters of appointment given to the non-confirmed employees thereby occasioning discrimination, psychological trauma, and unending tribulations in various forms, including delayed pay, inferior terms of service and general hopelessness,” reads part of the ruling.
“The court directs the respondents to place all the affected employees, referred to above on payroll and apply to each one of them the minimum terms and conditions of service provided under the Employment Act, 2007,” Justice Nderi ordered.
Following the verdict, the casual labourers have welcomed Justice Nderi’s ruling.
“I am grateful to the court for making this judgment and I am very happy because these workers have suffered for a very long time and finally justice has been served to them,” said Oscar Namusasi, the Bungoma County assistant secretary Kenya County Government Workers Union
He appealed to Governor Wycliffe Wangamati to work closely with the union officials to ensure that the aggrieved workers get justice.
“The court has ruled that the workers be employed and put on the county payroll within two months from the date of the ruling and the county should move with speed and issue employment letters are given to the workers so that they can be enlisted on the payroll and get paid all their outstanding salaries,” said Mr. Namusasi.
Namusasi said that the County should consider factoring the casual workers in the next financial year’s budget.
Jane Simiyu a casual worker from Webuye town said that she was happy with the court’s ruling adding that she had worked for the county since 2014 without a single pay.