Supporters take Kenya concerns to London AGM

Members of the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and Unite the Union will take their concerns about attacks against Kenyan logistics workers to the attention of BAT (British American Tobacco) shareholders in London today.

They will distribute a personal message from Ruth Matahi, a worker at the Agility logistics multinational’s branch in Kenya, at the BAT AGM to be held at 11:30am, at Milton Court, Guild Hall School of Music and Drama, Silk St, London EC2Y 9BH. In the message Ruth Matahi asks shareholders to ask BAT to raise the treatment of Agility workers transporting its tobacco. (Full text below).

Agility’s Kenyan management is guilty of dangerous and violent tactics against workers and their choice of trade union (see A likely attack by armed police was only just averted last month by the ITF drawing it to governmental and international attention and putting witnesses and cameras in place.

ITF Africa regional secretary Joe Katende said: “What is happening at Agility in Kenya is a disgrace and it’s time the Kuwait-based parent company acted decisively. We’re aware that they have sent two people from their Dubai office to look into what’s happening and the word is that they were shocked by what they found. Agility has to act to cut out the rot and to ensure that the workers get the union protection that they want and need.”

He continued: “BAT is a significant customer of Agility in Kenya and we’d like to prevail on them to raise this matter with the company. We would like them to convey our concern to Agility, a company that needs to listen before it finds blood on its hands in Kenya.”

The ITF presence at this morning’s AGM will be alongside members of fellow global union the IUF (International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hospitality Workers) and Unite the Union, who are launching this report for BAT shareholders on the condition of North Carolina tobacco farmworkers

Follow events on Twitter at #agilityunionrightsnow



Ruth’s message, from the leaflet being handed out today. (You can see this leaflet here)


Dear shareholder,

I am Ruth Matahi, a clerical worker in Kenya for a key customer of yours, Agility. We carry BAT’s tobacco in our trucks.

Along with some 165 Agility truckers, clerical and warehouse workers I would like safe and decent working conditions. 

Unfortunately the company has responded aggressively to our plea.

Last week, in Kenya, Agility security guards manhandled me for turning up to work. They treated me as an intruder and pushed a desk out of the way to get at me. They grabbed my blouse and tore it. Agility was angry because I challenged a decision to transfer me to thousands of miles away from home. I am an active union member and have been encouraging my fellow workers to join the union*.

We thought you’d want to know how your business partner is behaving. There’s a little more information overleaf – I’d be really grateful if you could raise your concerns at this AGM over BAT’s use of a company that abuses its workers.

Thanks for your time.

Asante (that’s ‘thank you’ in Swahili)

Ruth Matahi

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