Workers at Style Industries Ltd, a manufacturer of synthetic hair, have been fighting since 2015 to have their union, the Kenyan Union of Hair and Beauty Workers (KUHABWO), recognised. KUHABWO recruited 3,811 workers out of a workforce of 6,000, of whom 85 per cent are women, but the company did all it could to harass and discourage union members. When union officials came to recruit workers during breaks or lunch time, the employer used the police to harass and arrest the workers to stop them from speaking with union representatives.
The dispute became deadlocked at conciliation, and the case went to the Employment and Labour Relations Court, which issued a restraining order against the company in 2017. The order instructed Style Industries to stop “victimising, intimidating, coercing, harassing, and indulging in unfair labour practices” and allow for the case to be finalised in court. Further, the court said the company must stop terminating contracts and dismissing union members because of their union membership.
Despite the court’ decision, the company’s union-busting tactics continued, and in May 2021 it dismissed another 150 union members. Those who were not deterred by the move and remained union members were threatened with dismissals.
A solidarity campaign was launched in June 2021 to raise awareness of the company’s anti-union tactics.