Kenyan Workers Expose Discriminatory Layoffs in Sendwave-WorldRemit Corporate Merger

Kenyan employees at money transfer service Sendwave which merged with WorldRemit have raised concerns over unequal treatment and dismissals following the merger formalization last year.

Kenyan Workers Fight Back in Sendwave-WorldRemit Merger Fallout
Kenyan Workers Fight Back in Sendwave-WorldRemit Merger Fallout

WorldRemit, the digital, global cross-border payments company completed its acquisition of Sendwave in February 2021 and announced the appointment of Michael Ball as WorldRemit Group CFO and Arnaud Loiseau as WorldRemit CEO, International.

According to a statement from one affected employee, they faced hostility from WorldRemit management after this merger, resulting in dismissals for minor reasons like being a minute late or dropping calls.

Claimants received a letter indicating redundancy without clear reasons for terminating 154 positions.

“We were fired every day for flimsy reasons,” the source said, “creating fear among the staff.”

“So, Sendwave merged with WorldRemit and it was formalized last year. When WorldRemit took over, they were very hostile to the Kenyan employees. They fired guys every day for flimsy reasons. Guys would be fired for clocking in late by a minute or dropping calls,” the source adds.

The Customer Care department, mostly staffed by Kenyans, bore the brunt of these dismissals, with the entire department being terminated abruptly in May 2023.

“We were ambushed with a townhall meeting and fired en masse,” the source recounts, “leaving us in shock and uncertainty.”

The source continues, “Many of the employees had families to look after and had taken loans, which some people have not been able to repay. The judge awarded a one-month salary in March 18th’s verdict. My colleagues from Canada and the US were well compensated due to their labor laws, but here they treated us like we didn’t matter. Kenyans were the majority of the department.”

The dismissals have had serious repercussions for the affected employees many of whom are the sole providers for their families and have outstanding loans.

“We were treated like we didn’t matter,” the source laments. “Our colleagues in other countries received proper compensation, but we were left with very little.”

Hon. Justice Linnet Ndolo ruled in favor of the claimants, concluding that their termination was unlawful and discriminatory.

    • The judge found that the claimants’ termination violated Article 27 of the Kenyan Constitution, which guarantees equality and freedom from discrimination.
    • The employer, Sendwave Limited, failed to provide substantive reasons for the redundancy and did not follow due process in issuing redundancy notices.
    • Citing Section 5(6) of the Employment Act, the judge noted that the burden of disproving discrimination lies with the employer. Sendwave Limited did not meet this burden, particularly regarding allegations of discrimination related to the claimants’ nationality and lack of prior consultation. 

The judge awarded the claimants twelve months’ salary for unfair termination, totaling Kshs. 156,372.

    • Kshs. 500,000 as damages for discrimination.
    • One month’s salary in lieu of notice due to the failure of the respondent to provide adequate notice as required by law.
    • Severance pay based on their tenure with the company as per labor laws.

Despite the judgment awarding them one month’s salary, the employees are still determined to appeal the decision in pursuit of justice and equitable treatment.

The situation is particularly critical for some, including pregnant women who were left without medical insurance following its termination in June.

This has forced them to seek alternative means to cover hospital expenses for childbirth.

“So, the verdict from the court was only 1-month payment, which has not yet been paid out. Mind you, we had colleagues who were pregnant, colleagues who had taken loans, because our contract was permanent. The judge never took this into consideration. People are suffering right now, like really suffering, we have to help each other most of the time.

If we can highlight this so that at least we can get help, it will be of great assistance. Sendwave was making a lot of money, and Kenyans were the majority of the workforce in that company. Senegalese were given a decent package, and US/Canadian colleagues were paid very well because of their laws. How come Kenyans were fired like that, and they don’t want anything to do with us?

Also, for the pregnant colleagues, we were insured for the whole year, but they terminated the medical insurance in June, so some of the people had to seek funds to be able to get decent hospitals to deliver, after the hospitals they were going to had to withdraw support after the insurance was terminated,” the source adds.

The company is still hiring people in other countries which makes them think the firing was just a sneaky way to replace them with cheaper labor from places with less strict work laws.

This is the email when the redudancy happened
This is the e-mail when the redundancy happened.

The redundancy notice was sent to the labor office and not individually to claimants as required by law.

16th May 2023 - Notification of Redundancy Letter (to the Kenyan Labour Office) (1)-1

The workers refer to legal precedents that place the burden of disproving discrimination on the employer which Sendwave Limited allegedly failed to do.

We will keep a keen eye on developments in this case.

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