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12 Nov 2022

James Mulholland, AberdeenLive

Kenya: Tea workers involved in legal action against James Finlay report ‘gross intimidation’ by employees incl. attempt to run over worker with lorry & assault by police

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"Aberdeen tea firm employee allegedly tried to run over a Kenyan worker", 12 November 2022

An employee of a Scottish tea firm allegedly tried to run over a Kenyan worker because they were suing the firm for damages over poor working conditions, a court has heard.

Advocate Andrew Smith KC accused James Finlay Kenya Ltd on Friday of breaching a promise it made to the Court of Session earlier this year.

Mr Smith told judge Lord Weir that the company...gave an undertaking to not harass employees who are taking legal action against it.

Around 2,000 staff members have launched a class action at Scotland’s highest civil court against the firm claiming it didn’t do enough to prevent them from suffering musculoskeletal injuries.

Mr Smith, who is acting for a senior lawyer representing the workers, told the virtual hearing on Friday how one worker was walking along a road when a lorry driven by another employee tried to run him over...

The driver then approached the man. Mr Smith said the man told “him he was being targeted because he was suing” Finlay’s...

In February 2022, a Scottish judge gave permission for the action to proceed and a figurehead for the action - lawyer Hugh Campbell KC - was appointed to allow the action to proceed in his name.

In April 2022, lawyers acting for Mr Campbell managed to obtain an interim interdict which forced managers working for the firm to stop engaging in behaviour “calculated to intimidate and threaten” the employees who were involved in the action.

Lawyers for the firm later gave an undertaking to the Court of Session in July 2022 that people involved in the action wouldn’t be intimidated.

However, the Court of Session later heard that later in the same month, lawyers for the Scottish firm obtained an injunction from the Employment and Labour Relations Court of Kenya.

An African judge passed an order prohibiting the employees from participating in the action.

This prompted lawyers for Mr Campbell to return to the Court of Session.

Mr Campbell’s legal team told judge Lord Braid that the obtaining of the injunction showed “oppressive, vexatious and unconscionable” behaviour on the part of the firm.

Advocate Andrew Smith QC said the injunction was designed to “intimidate” group members from continuing with the case...

On Friday, Mr Smith told the court of how a worker involved in the legal action was assaulted by local police officers.

Mr Smith said: "There's the most gross intimidation taking place of those who are suing JFKL and they are being targeted because they are suing JFKL.

”There's a feeling that the police are JKFL's police. JKFL need to take steps to stop this immediately."

Finlay’s lawyer, Lord Davidson of Glen Clova KC said the allegations made by Mr Smith amounted to “attempted murder” and “police corruption”. He said the claims needed to be investigated.

James Finlay believes the Court of Session has no jurisdiction in the case and that the matter should be tried in Kenya as the alleged injuries took place in workplaces in the African state.

Lawyers representing the farm workers say that the Court of Session can hear the class action because James Finlay is a firm registered in Scotland...