How G4S HR director sexually harassed employee before sacking her

0
346

G4S Security Guards’ dog section at Uhuru park during a past Labour Day celebrations. PHOTO/COURTESY 

By PATRICK MAYOYO

Until she was sexually harassed, G4S  Kenya Ltd was a perfect employer for Saida Rashid Mbonika. As an information technology expert she was earning a good salary and had been promoted to the position of an IT manager in the company.

From the time she joined the company until 2003 things ran smoothly for her before the then G4S Human Resource Director in Kenya, Mr Dominic Ooko, started making sexual advances at her that she rejected.

Sexual harassment is described as unwanted or offensive sexual attention, suggestions, or talk, especially from an employer or other person in a position of power.

And then out of the blue she discovered that her position in the company as IT manager had been advertised and a male employee hired to replace her. Mbonika did not take it lying down. She protested vigorously against this development forcing the company to transfer the new IT manager to another department.

But her tribulations had only been postponed and thrown under a veil of deceit and conspiracy. Later, her boss who wanted to use sexual harassment as a tool of oppression intensified his onslaught against her.

However, being a dare-devil and one who did not take things lying down, Mbonika decided to escalate her tribulations to the highest echelons of the G4S management in Kenya.

According to court records, because of the intensified sexual harassment from the HR Director, she decided to report the matter to the then G4S Kenya managing director, Mr Ken Wood, expecting a reprieve and intervention.

But that was not to be. Justice Nelson Abuodha, who awarded Mbonika Ksh 35 million in compensation for being sacked after rejecting her bosses sexual advances noted that the G4S managing director failed to resolve the dispute as expected of him.

However, justice is yet to be served to Mbonika because even the Sh 35 million she was awarded by the court is yet to land in her pockets because an appeal was filed against the verdict and the wheels of justice are still spinning.

According to court records, Mr Wood described Mbonika’s complaints as trivial and indicated that the then HR Director Ooko was free to act against her as he deemed fit calling the claimant as “prickly and over-sensitive.”

In his judgment, Justice Abuodha of Nairobi’s Employment and Labour Relations Court noted that G4S neglected to initiative any investigations into the claimant’s complaints and showed bias and discrimination by abetting and condoning the HR Director’s unlawful and illegal actions.

Mbonika’s case is just a single demonstration of some of the violation of workers’ rights experienced by G4S employees in Kenya.

Interviews by G4S workers in different cities in Kenya last year and early this year revealed a litany of complaints that included working for long hours, being underpaid and lack of a conducive working environment.

When contacted, G4S Plc Group Media Manager, Ms  Charlotte Varney, about Mbonika’s case she confirmed indeed there was such a case but declined to give details saying the matter is still before court.

Ms Varney however, added “We take very seriously any grievances or complaints from our employees and especially matters related to sexual harassment.”

She added that G4S Kenya has an anonymous whistleblowing system that allows employees to report matters including those of a sexual harassment nature.

“Every reported case is thoroughly investigated and handled with utmost confidentiality,” Ms Varney added.

The General Secretary of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU), Mr Isaac Andabwa said the issue of sexual harassment is very rampant in the private security sector and his union is aggressively fighting it.

Mr Andabwa did not give specific numbers on the allegations they have received so far saying allegations received by the union are undergoing review.

“We have received complaints of some bosses in the private security sector demanding sex from women workers in order to promote them and taken up the cases with relevant authorities,” Mr Andabwa said.

Sexual harassment allegations in the private security sector are rampant says General Secretary of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union, Mr Isaac Andabwa. PHOTO/KPSWU

According to, Ms Betty Sharon, the Executive Director of  Collaboration of Women in Development, a women empowerment lobby, sexual harassment at the work place is rampant in all sectors not only in Kenya but also in other parts of Africa.

“Sexual harassment at the work place is not a Kenyan problem and it is not just in the private security sector but all employment sectors,” she said.

Ms Sharon said apart from sexual harassment in the private security sector the problem was also rampant in other sectors and mainly target jobseekers, new recruits and those women seeking promotions.

“Women are mainly sexually exploited in order to be employed or promoted but most of them do not come out to complain either due to lack of awareness or fear,” she added.

She said women bodies had launched numerous campaigns to address this problem and  the 16 Days of activism against gender-based violence campaign initiated in 1991 by the  Center for Women’s Global Leadership is one such initiative that aims to end gender based violence against women in the work place.

“We even have complains of sexual harassment in media houses mainly targeting interns,” she noted.

G4S Kenya Ltd employees have either issued strike threats in recent years to protest against unfair working conditions or opted for legal redress as part of efforts to improve their working conditions.

One such incident happened in 2018 when the company issued a notice of intention to declare more 2000 employees redundant and also for planning to reduce day guards’ salaries.

And while Ms Varney has refuted this allegation, court records and the Kenya National Private Security Workers Union says indeed there was such a development.

“This allegation is a work of fiction. No such notice was made and no court case was ever opened or closed,” she said.

Ms Betty Sharon, Executive Director of Collaboration of Women in Development, noted that sexual harassment cuts across all employment sectors. PHOTO/PATRICK MAYOYO

However, Mr Andabwa said the Kenya National Private Security Workers Union took this issue to court before they settled it through a memorandum of understanding.

“It is true G4S wanted to declare 3,775 employees redundant because they had lost contracts to other companies that were not paying the minimum wage and we went to court to challenge this decision,” he said.

Mr Andabwa said due to lack of a proper legal framework to regulate the private security sector they had two conflicting labour laws, the General Wages Order and the Protective Security Services Wages Order which were being used by employers to exploit workers in the private security sector.

“At the time, G4S was paying both the night and day security guards the same salary as opposed to other companies that were paying different salaries to day and night security guards,” he said.

Mr Andabwa said after their court intervention, they signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with G4S to resolve this issue pending the introduction of a proper legal framework to regulate the private security sector that has come with the introduction of the Private Security Regulation Act 2016.

In January 2011 , hundreds of workers at security firm G4S threatened to go on strike  in a week’s time if their demands for improved wages are not met. The unionisable employees, also wanted the firm to discontinue the planned retrenchment exercise that started on New Year’s day.

In December, 2018, operations at G4S Nakuru offices were paralysed after workers  went on strike over alleged harassment by the management. They also accused the company of slashing their salaries illegally. They said they had a right to fair labour practices in line with Kenya’s Constitution and the Labour Relations Act 2007.

Last year, the Kenya National Private Security Workers Union issued a 21-day strike  to employers of their members demanding for better salaries for the security guards.

On the other allegations made by workers Ms Varney said G4S Kenya follows all legal requirements including payment of gazetted minimum wages and payment of overtime as prescribed by the Protective Security Services (General) Wages Order (Amended).

G4S workers demonstrate outside their Nakuru office on December 3, 2018.They were protesting against reduction of their salaries by the management. PHOTO/COURTESY

“The security industry working hours are prescribed in the PSSW and a description of how the overtime is calculated is given,” she added.

In 2008, G4S signed the so-called Global Framework Agreement with global security trade union, UNI Global Union, formerly, Union Network International (UNI).

Global Framework Agreements are negotiated on a global level between trade unions and a multinational company. They put in place the very best standards of trade union rights, health, safety and environmental practices, and quality of work principles across a company’s global operations.

Mr Andabwa, whose Kenya National Private Security Workers Union is an affiliate of  UNI Global Union said the union was happy with measures taken by G4S to ensure it complied with Global Framework Agreement.

“As a union we are happy by steps being taken to comply with Global Framework Agreement but we are still pushing them on other issues,” he said.

 

He added one of the issues they are still fighting in court with G4S is overtime payment. “Employees in private security sector are supposed to work for eight hours, but at times they work up to 12 hours and they are not adequately compensated,” he said.

Mr Hussein Khalid, (in green t-shirt) the Executive Director of Haki Africa, a human rights lobby said grievances against private security companies in Kenya are overwhelming in coast region. PHOTO/HAKI AFRICA

And according to, Mr Hussein Khalid, the Executive Director of  Haki Africa  , a human rights lobby, while the private security sector stands out in the violation of workers’ rights the grievances cut across all employment sectors.

“The main grievances in the private security sector include lack of contracts for employees, no compensation for injuries and failure to pay employees when their contracts are terminated,” he said.

Mr Khalid whose organization releases annual reports on human rights violations says their 2019 State of Human Rights at the Coast of Kenya shows that labour related grievances are rampant at Kenya’s coast.

And an official at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection who talked to this writer on condition that he is not named because he is not authorized to talk to the media said they have handled labour disputes involving G4S Kenya Ltd employees and other private security firms in the past.

“We are aware of grievances raised by employees in the private sector but labour related complaints cut across all sectors,” he said.

This article was developed with the support of journalismfund.eu

Help us to report stories that expose human rights violations, corruption, environmental degradation, spark reforms and generally spotlight issues of public interest.
While traditional news reporting is losing its relevance, serious investigation now requires more than basic journalistic skills. To do this we require a lot of resources.
You can either BECOME A SPONSOR or MAKE A CONTRIBUTION


Nelson Mandela once said: “A critical, independent, and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”

If you like our journalism support us to continue bringing you groundbreaking and agenda setting stories.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.