Money requital not enough for Unilever Kenya plantation killings, rape
The law firm representing the workers said the UK company's decision to give money to workers 'sidesteps' the company's responsibility.
Unilever Tea Kenya, a subsidiary of the consumer goods multinational company based in London, will be making compensations to the 77 Kenyan tea pickers who were working on one of its plantations in Kenya when they fell victim to violent assaults after the elections in 2007, The Guardian reported.
Leigh Day, the law firm representing the workers, said the British company will be making voluntary or ex gratia payments to workers who were attacked at the plantation in Kericho, Kenya.
In December 2007, violence broke out across Kenya over allegations of election fraud. Seven people were killed and more than 50 women were raped at the plantation in Kericho.
Unilever stated that it provided employees with financial assistance, medical aid, and counseling services.
Nevertheless, the workers argued that they were not fairly compensated. The financial compensation amounted to approximately £80 each, equivalent to one month's salary, which they believe was not proportionate to the violence they were subjected to when they were working at the plantation.
Many tea workers reported symptoms of PTSD, and one worker reported contracting HIV after being raped.
In 2015, Leigh Day filed a lawsuit in the United Kingdom on behalf of the workers, accusing Unilever of not implementing sufficient measures to safeguard them from potential harm, but the case was dismissed by the court.
In 2020, 218 tea pickers brought forth a complaint to the United Nations, accusing Unilever of breaching international human rights norms due to their alleged inadequate support.
In May, a United Nations panel focused on human rights and corporate activities sent a letter to Hein Schumacher, who serves as the CEO of Unilever, expressing profound concerns about the lack of access to justice or effective remedies for the victims.
A former Unilever employee explained how upon their return in 2008, employees were essentially left to fend for themselves.
Reflecting on the 2007 attack, he recalled that armed gangs, armed with machetes, wooden batons, and other weapons, forcibly evicted workers from their homes on the plantation. In a desperate bid to save his life, he sought refuge in the tea bushes on the estate, hiding for three days while attackers pursued workers with dogs, inflicting injuries, fatalities, and gruesome dismemberments.
The interviewed worker, who still bears scars on his head from a machete assault, revealed that he lost consciousness during the ordeal but later managed to escape and seek medical attention.
"[Unilever] has not taken responsibility – there has not even been an apology," the worker told The Guardian.
"When we returned to work, it was business as usual. No one approached me to talk about the attacks or offer support. We were only warned not to say anything if we saw someone with something of ours [stolen during the attacks]. We even became afraid to talk about it."
The representatives of the claimant contended that Unilever's recent payments sidestepped the workers' grievances.
David Roberts, a lawyer from Leigh Day, expressed, "We strongly believe that what transpired concerning [the workers] was unjust. The manner in which Unilever has responded to their complaints constitutes an injustice that requires redress."