Inhumane working conditions in Kenya by Hindi employees

A UoN graduate engineer has come out to narrate a disheartening story of the inhumane working conditions he had to persevere while working under an exploitative Indian employer.

Wyregi who graduated in September 2019 with a Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering found himself working as a bottle top packaging slave at Metal Crowns Limited located in Industrial Area and discovered the depths of ruthlessness that Hindi employers are famous for.

He was required to work for 18 hours with a 10-minute break for meals daily, meals that would be deducted together with taxes, from their meagre salary considering the serious profits the company makes.

Wyregi’s story is just one of the many stories we hear daily of foreigners who come to our country and put Kenyans into suffering and basing their acts on the high unemployment rate in the country. The other day a Chinese national was recorded on camera caning employees.

But you know the saddest thing about it all? These foreign nationals continue to subject Kenyans to inhumane working conditions and nothing seems to be done by the government.

Whenever employees complain, they are reminded that they voluntary sought for jobs at these companies and hence ought to be ready to do as they’re told. Any hard headedness would result in instant firing and there’s always someone to replace you almost immediately.

Such employers use constancy firms to hire employees a procedure which enables them to hire and fire at will while reducing the risk of being sued for exploitative working conditions and salaries.

It’s sad that a student can persevere over 5 years in university pursuing a technical job only to find himself working in a menial job where he cannot apply the information he acquired. What then is the importance of education?

And why is the Kenyan government turning a blind eye to the plight of Kenyans? A government which is obliged to prioritize its citizens in everything seems not to care.

Wyregi’s story which he tweeted on Monday, has received over 90K retweets and likes. If you’d like to check the thread out here’s the link.

However for those not in twitter, below is the story word by word.

Having spent 6 years in UoN studying engineering and graduating late 2019, I thought 2020 was the year ya kuomoka till Rona happened. I’ll do a thread of my experience in job hunting in 2020 and how I ended up kwa Mhindi packing bottle tops 14hours a night…

January 2020 after graduating in Sep2019 and landing an internship immediately things were going very well. In Jan 2020 everything seemed promising, it was the year I was going to land that dream job. Opportunities were in plenty Total, Schneider, EABL, Baker Hughes all had graduate programs and not forgetting other entry level engineering jobs and internships.

I landed two interviews in the first week of January. One was at Kapa Oil for an internship position. This is the first Mhindi Company I have ever come across. The interview was great.

The offer was a 6-month internship, no pay, had to pay for my own lunch in the vegan canteen, I took it. After two days there, I got a real job offer in a bakery till Rona hit and I lost the job after 6 months, had to start tarmacking again.

This is where my nightmare started.

0n 29th June, UoN Career Services posted a job advert and it was forwarded on WhatsApp. They wanted Mechanical and Engineering graduates and I knew this is it, I mean UoN career services gotta be legit.

This was the job description.

Metal Crowns Limited

The company is called Metal Crowns Ltd. The job looked good on paper, it’s operation of automatic machines. I didn’t waste any time so I sent my CV to UoN career services and they confirmed. All I had to do now is wait.

On 30th June that was the last day on my old job, I got a call from the company’s HR, a very nice and calm man, he invited me for an interview. I was lucky I mean I haven’t even spent time tarmacking. I was very excited.

The following week, I went for the interview. They gave me an aptitude test, easy basic Engineering maths and some stuff about compressed air and how to read a Vernier caliper. I did well and at the end they informed they will give me the job but I had to show them my previous job’s contract.

This was a big red flag but I told them they have to match the terms of my previous contract and they said okay. They said they will call back after a few days so I went home.

After about two weeks a lady calls and said she was from a company called People Link a consultancy company that the HR gave them my number I am supposed to go with my certificates at Corner House in town and sign some papers.

I was confused because in the interview they didn’t mention anything about subcontracting me. I went anyway to see what they were offering and see if they matched what we discussed during the interview. When I got they gave me some papers to sign and fill my details.

What these consultancy companies do is that you register with them, pay some registration fee. They have some clients i.e. companies that hire them to provide labor. When an opportunity comes up they get you an interview and if you get a job you pay them a percentage of your first full monthly salary.

In this situation I hadn’t even heard of People Link and wasn’t even their registered member. The company didn’t want to hire me directly so they used them (it’s easier to get rid of subcontracted workers) to hire me.

First I had to fill a registration form and then before I had finished they gave me a contract agreement to sign that I would give up my first full month salary. I asked why they showed me the service charge sheet which I felt it was robbery since they played no part in getting me the job.

After all that, I signed the agreement and I started asking about the terms of the job.

First it was the working hours, the job was a shift job 12 hours day shift and 13 hours nightshift. During shift changes (switching working from night to day), you have to work 18 f**king hours.

The second thing was the salary. They said I can’t get what we agreed with HR I have to settle with 30k and in this 30k they deduct lunch and supper they offer in the company (which is terrible to be honest). For me money wasn’t the biggest of priorities so I didn’t complain too much.

Another thing was lateness. I was to join the night shift and I was supposed to report at 6pm. If anything happened and I was late for 30 minutes I have to go back home and no pay for that day.

They didn’t offer any transport or any additional allowances. For those who know the Likoni Rd, Lunga-Lunga Rd route, the only available matatus are the old Outreach Sacco (I don’t know how those things still work) in Muthurwa.

So if you’re coming from the other side of town, you have to walk to catch a matatu at Muthurwa every single day to and from. This means if you live a little bit far you have to add 4 hours of commute to your working hours. This means the job is taking between 17-19hours of your day

After getting all this information I still took the job, I was to start on the night of August 5th. The reporting time was 6pm so I left home at 4pm and arrived a few minutes to 6pm. They did the security checks and linked me to the team leader of the shift.

The guy gave me an overall and told me “I hope huogopi kazi”. No orientations, no introductions the guy took me to the machines. They produce metal crowns/glass bottle tops for soft drinks and beer. He gave me some other guy who showed me how the job is done. The guy demonstrated for 5 minutes.

The job was first forming the cartons in to a box, then fitting a polythene bag on the box, fill up the box with the metal crowns, shake the box for the crowns to settle, you seal the box, label the box, put it in a pallet, stack up the pallet up to 5 stacks, drag the pallet to the storage, come back with another pallet and start the same cycle.

The first 30 minutes, I was already sweating but I was informed I had to keep doing it till my shift was over. By 9pm I was so exhausted.

At 10pm, a “supper” break came to my rescue, it was for 10minutes but I got time to talk to the other guys. I asked them how they manage to do that job every day. Most of them had joined like three weeks earlier and they don’t have an option. They have to do it for their families.

The “supper” was 2chapos na ndengu, very shitty food, which was to be deducted from your salary.

As I was talking to the guys, they told me that day was a slow day. There’s a day they worked 18 f**king hours a night. You clock in at 6pm & leave next day at 12noon. That’s madness.

That supper break was the only break, for the rest of the night you’re expected to work till your shift ends. By midnight, my legs and hands were shaking, my back couldn’t hold anymore but I had to keep going. The speed of the machine was crazy.

So I started tracking how much working I was doing just to distract myself. One box of the metal crowns was 10,000 pieces and by midnight I had done 60 cartons. That’s 600,000 crowns. The price of metal crowns i.e. wholesale is 0.01$-0.04$. (Source: Alibaba)

In Kenyan shillings, that’s 5 bob per piece, which means in 7 hours the cost of all of that was f**king 2.6 million. By the end of the night I did 1.2 million pieces which translates to almost 6 million Kenyan shillings. The guy next to me did 2.6million pieces which is roughly 11million.

With 4 lines of fabrication you can only imagine the amount of money those guys are making. These “small” companies in Industrial Area make lots of money but the working conditions there are horrible. They don’t care at all about their workers.

I don’t understand how someone is expected to work 14 hours a night with one 10 min break for 6 days a week and when the demand is too high the off-day is deferred to a later day. And to switch from night shift, you have to work 18 hours with no compensation.

I don’t have a problem with the salary but doing that kind of work for 14 hours needs superhero powers not someone who was used to mandazi for lunch and chapo ndengu in UoN.

How can a company take 18/24 hours of your time, means you have 6 hours personal time and you haven’t even slept. And to think of the money they’re making, it’s just inhumane. I don’t even know that’s legal.

Anyway, I clocked out at 7.08 am. I was feeling sick so on my way I was checking the job description and I realized they said they required someone with “physical stamina and strength”, which clearly I wasn’t. I was never going back to that place.

I slept the whole way kwa matatu, I actually felt I needed an ambulance to be honest. I arrived at home around 9am, took breakfast and slept for two days. Today 5 days later, I am still recovering.

I wonder how many people in Industrial Area work under these conditions and probably worse. I am lucky I don’t have a family so I can survive till the next opportunity comes up. That’s high-key modern-day slavery if you ask me.

Their bargaining power is that so many people don’t have jobs so when you go to the interview they will utilize that to get you signing up to really bad terms cause you don’t have another option. I am sure they have already replaced me with someone else and the cycle continues.

I feel for every young Kenyan man, it’s crazy out here. For everyone looking for a job or in a bad one, sending some love. Hang in there, we hope for better days.

Kenyans on Twitter have come out to show support to Wyregi in a bid to highlight the issue to the government with some offering free advice for him and any other youth in similar situations. Meanwhile, we can only wait and see what happens

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