Kenyan tea pickers allowed to sue firm in Scotland
A Scottish judge has said he will allow hundreds of Kenyan farm workers to take legal action against one of the world's biggest tea producers.
The workers are current and former employees of Finlays, a multi-national company which was founded in Scotland in the 18th century.
They claim conditions on Finlays' tea farms in Kenya damaged their health and are suing for damages in the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
Finlays opposes the action.
The firm argued any claim should be dealt with by the courts in Kenya and the action does not meet the requirements of Scotland's rules on group litigation proceedings.
These are known as class actions in other jurisdictions.
But in a virtual hearing, the Judge Lord Weir said: "In principle and subject to clarification on the matter of a representative party, I am satisfied that the criteria for granting that application are met."
Another hearing will be held on the case next month.
The Finlays group is one of the world's biggest producers of tea and coffee and includes Starbucks among its customers.
It operates on five continents and can trace its origins back to James Finlay, a cotton merchant who founded the business in Scotland in 1750.
James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd is a Scottish company incorporated in 1925 with a registered address in Aberdeen.
Most of the claimants are former tea pickers who say they were injured while working for James Finlay (Kenya) Ltd.
A previous court hearing had heard the pickers claim they were routinely asked to work up to 12 hours a day without a break, for six days a week, earning in 2017 an average monthly wage of £100($134).
Pickers had to harvest a minimum of 30kg of tea to be paid anything at all, it was claimed.