BY SAM ALFAN.
Bidco Africa Limited has suffered a major blow in an attempt to overturn award of millions granted to it former employees.
The Court of Appeal dismissed an application by edible oil company Bidco Africa ltd, seeking to overturn an award of Sh22.4 million granted to some 296 former employees.
Bidco will now have to pay the former employees.
The appellate court rejected the application by the company, to file an appeal for inordinate delay.
Appellate court judge Patrick Kiage dismissed the case saying the reasons advanced by the company are neither excusable nor satisfactory.
“All of them could have been mitigated if counsel and the firm in general were vigilant. I do not dispute that the courts scaled down operations as per the directive of the then Chief Justice David Maraga.
However, the Chief Justice subsequently issued practice directions on electronic case management,” the Judge said dismissing claims that the company was unable to file the appeal because of Covid-19 pandemic.
The judge said former Chief Justice David Maraga issued directions including e-filing of documents, e-payment and e-service of documents using email and WhatsApp platforms.
“The Rules of this Court must be adhered to by parties at all times and parties in default should place material before the Judge whose favourable discretion is sought to show that they tried as much as possible to comply with them even when faced with challenges,” Justice Kiage said.
The company wanted to appeal against the decision issued in July 2018, directing it to pay each of the 296 employee on month’s salary in lieu of notice, for each completed year of service.
This was after the former employees sued the company for unfair termination. The workers had claimed that the company failed to recognise them as permanent employees despite working for long periods.
They also claimed that they had been forced to sign new contracts without taking into account the period they had previously served.
The former workers later went on strike after which they were sacked.
Although Justice Nelson Abuodha dismissed the claim that the sacking was unfair, he ordered that each be paid.
The company later disputed the tabulation done by the court and pursued the appeal only to claim that the intention of challenging the decision was hampered by the pandemic, which saw the closure of its office and a clerk being locked in Machakos following travel restrictions, which were issued last year.
Bidco said the delay was occasioned by unprecedented circumstances and the company ought not to be penalized for it.