Farm workers from Kenya launch legal action in Scotland against tea company after suffering 'severe health problems'

One of the world’s biggest tea producers is reportedly being sued by seven farm workers in Kenya who claim they have suffered ‘severe health problems’ due to poor conditions.

The case will be heard at the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.
The case will be heard at the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

The BBC reports that the farm workers are suing James Finlay Kenya Ltd for damages of £15,000 each in the All Scotland Sheriff Personal Injury Court in Edinburgh.

The advocate for the workers in Kenya, Isaac Okero, told the BBC that injuries they have suffered include spinal damage and “severe degenerative injuries which have severely impacted on their lives”.

These injuries, he claimed, are a direct result of “years of service” that they have provided to James Finlays Kenya Ltd.

The firm is defending its health and safety record and are opposing the action taken against them.

In a statement, a spokesman said: "We are aware of the claims relating to allegations of personal injury suffered by seven claimants while carrying sacks of fresh tea on our farms.

“Based on the information currently available, James Finlay Kenya refutes the claims and intends to defend them in full in compliance with judicial due-process.

“At Finlays, the health and wellbeing of all of our employees globally is our primary concern.

"We have a well-established and robust health and safety programme covering our global business, including our operations in Kenya.”

It concludes by stating that the Kenyan branch of the business is certified by the Rainforest Alliance, which requires standard audits and adheres to the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code.

This case was launched in 2017 when James Finlay Kenya Ltd was ordered by a sheriff court to give the farm workers legal team access to the farms in Kenya to assess their working conditions.

The firm refused, arguing that the Scottish order could not be implemented without endorsement from a Kenyan court.

David Short, a personal injury specialist from Balfour and Manson in Edinburgh, is representing the farm workers and said he suspects that the refusal to allow legal teams in is to prevent them from seeing “the dreadful condition that these people work in”.

James Finlay Ltd moved its headquarters to London from Glasgow 15 years ago, but it is open to legal action in Scottish courts and its registered office address is in Aberdeen.

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