Graduate Chronicles: A night in Industrial Area, how I ended up packaging bottle tops 6 Months after graduating with an Engineering Degree

Every once in a while, A Kenyan on Twitter, usually a recent graduate or a young professional will serve the timeline some chilling thread about their career struggles. A while ago, @nzots served us this thread.

Yesterday, it was @wyregi_‘s turn, and just like @nzots thread, thousands related to it… Here’s how @wyregi_, a fresh Engineering Graduate from THE UoN, went from an internship, a paying job to packaging bottletops worth for 6 millions in just a day for a pay of 30,000 for 13 hours shift. (some days 18hrs).

Having spent 6 years in UoN studying engineering and graduating late 2019, I thought 2020 was the year ya kuomoka till Rona happened. I’ll do a thread of my experience in job hunting in 2020 and how I ended up kwa Mhindi packing bottle tops 14hours a night…

January 2020
After graduating in Sep2019 and landing an internship immediately things were going very well. In Jan 2020 everything seemed promising, it was the year I was going to land that dream job. Opportunities were in plenty Total, Schneider, EABL, Baker Hughes all had…

graduate programs and not forgetting other entry level engineering jobs and internships. I landed two interviews in the first week of January. One was at Kapa Oil for an internship position. This is the first Mhindi company I have ever come across. The interview was great…

The offer was a 6-month internship, no pay, had to pay for my own lunch in the vegan canteen, I took it. After two days there, I got a real job offer in a bakery till Rona hit and I lost the job after 6 months, had to start tarmacking again…This is where my nightmare started…

0n 29th June, UoN Career Services posted a job advert and it was forwarded on WhatsApp.. They wanted Mechanical and Engineering graduates and I knew this is it I mean UoN career services gotta be legit.

This was the job description… The company is called Metal Crowns Ltd…the job looked good on paper, it’s operation of automatic machines.

I didn’t waste any time so I sent my CV to UoN career services and they confirmed. All I had to do now is wait.

On 30th June
that was the last day on my old job, I got a call from the company’s HR, a very nice and calm man, he invited me for an interview. I was lucky I mean I haven’t even spent time tarmacking. I was very excited.

The following week, I went for the interview. They gave me an aptitude test, easy basic Engineering maths and some stuff about compressed air and how to read a vernier caliper… I did well and at the end they informed they will give me the job but I had to show them…

my previous job’s contract. This was a big red flag but I told them they have to match the terms of my previous contract and they said okay. They said they will call back after a few days so I went home.

After about two weeks a lady calls and said she was from a company called People Link a consultancy company that the HR gave them my number I am supposed to go with my certificates at Corner Hse in town and sign some papers.

I was confused because in the interview they didn’t mention anything about subcontracting me. I went anyway to see what they were offering and see if they matched what we discussed during the interview. When I got they gave me some papers to sign and fill my details.

What these consultancy companies do is that you register with them, pay some registration fee. They have some clients i.e. companies that hire them to provide labour. When an opportunity comes up they get you an interview and if you get a job you pay them a…

% of your first full monthly salary. In this situation I hadn’t even heard of PeopleLink and wasn’t even their registered member. The company didn’t want to hire me directly so they used them (it’s easier to get rid of subcontracted workers) to hire me. First I had to fill a…

registration form and then before I had finished gave me a contract agreement to sign that I would give up my first full month salary. I asked why they showed me the service charge sheet which I felt it was robbery since they played no part in getting me the job.

After all that, I signed the agreement and I started asking about the terms of the job.
First it was the working hours, the job was a shift job 12 hours day shift and 13 hours nightshift. During shift changes (switching working from night to day), you have to work 18 fucking hrs

The second thing was the salary, they said I can’t get what we agreed with HR I have to settle with 30k and in this 30k they deduct lunch and supper they offer in the company( which is terrible tbh). For me money wasn’t the biggest of priorities so I didn’t complain too much.

Another thing was lateness, I was to join the night shift and I was supposed to report at 6pm. If anything happened and I was late for 30 minutes I have to go back home and no pay for that day.

They didn’t offer any transport or any additional allowances. For those who know the Likoni Rd-Lunga-Lunga Rd route, the only available matatus are the old Outreach Sacco (Idk how those things still work) in Muthurwa.

So if you’re coming from the other side of town, you have to walk to catch a matatu at Muthurwa every single day to and from. This means if you live a lil bit far you have to add 4 hours of commute to your working hours.
This means the job is taking between 17-19hours of your day

After getting all this information I still took the job, I was to start on the night of August 5th. The reporting time was 6pm so I left home at 4pm and arrived a few minutes to 6pm. They did the security checks and linked me to the team leader of the shift.

The guy gave me an overall and told me “I hope huogopi kazi”. No orientations, no introductions the guy took me to the machines.. They produce metal crowns/glass bottle tops for soft drinks and beer. He gave me some other guy who showing me how the job is done.

The guy demonstrated for 5 minutes. The job was first forming the cartons in to a box, then fitting a polythene bag on the box, fill up the box with the metal crowns, shake the box for the crowns to settle, you seal the box, label the box, put it in a pallet, stack up the pallet

up to 5 stacks… drag the pallet to the storage, come back with another pallet and start the same cycle… The first 30 mins I was already sweating but I thought probably after some time I was informed I had to keep doing it till my shift was over… By 9pm I was so exhausted

At 10pm, a “supper” break came to my rescue, it was for 10minutes but I got time to talk to the other guys. I asked them how they manage to do that job every day. Most of them had joined like three weeks earlier and they don’t have an option they have to do it for their families

The “supper” was 2chapos na ndengu, very shitty food, which was tobe deducted from your salary.
As I was talking to the guys, they told me that day was a slow day. There’s a day they worked 18 fucking hours a night. You clock in at 6pm & leave next day at 12noon. That’s madness

That supper break was the only break, for the rest of the night you’re expected to work till your shift ends. By midnight, my legs and hands were shaking, my back couldn’t hold anymore but I had to keep going. The speed of the machine was crazy….

So I started tracking how much working I was doing just to distract myself. One box of the metal crowns was 10,000 pieces and by midnight I had done 60 cartons. That’s 600, 000 crowns. The price of metal crowns i.e wholesale is 0.01$-0.04$ (Source: Alibaba)

In kenya shillings that’s 5 bob per piece, which means in 7 hours the cost of all of that was fucking 2.6m. By the end of the night I did 1.2m pieces which translates to almost 6 million Kenyan shillings. The guy next to me did 2.6million pieces which is roughly 11m Ksh

With 4 lines of Fabrication you can only imagine the amount of money those guys are making. These “small” companies in Industrial Area make lots of money but the working conditions there are horrible. They don’t care at all about their workers. I don’t understand how someone…

is expected to work 14 hours a night with one 10 min break for 6 days a week and when the demand is too high the off-day is deferred to a later day. And to switch from night shift, you have to work 18 hours with no compensation.

I don’t have a problem with the salary but doing that kind of work for 14 hours needs superhero powers not someone who was used to mandazi for lunch and chapo ndengu in UoN.

How can a company take 18/24 hours of your time.. means you have 6 hours personal time and you haven’t even slept. and to think of the money they’re making, it’s just inhumane. I don’t even know that’s legal.

Anyway, I clocked out at 7.08 am. I was feeling sick so on my way I was checking the job description and I realized they said they required someone with “physical stamina and strength”, which clearly I wasn’t. I was never going back to that place.

I slept the whole way kwa matatu, I actually felt I needed an ambulance tbh. I arrived at home around 9am. I took breakfast and slept for two days😭😭😭 Today 5 days later, I am still recovering.

I wonder how many people in Industrial Area work under these conditions and probably worse. I am lucky I don’t have a family so I can survive till the next opportunity comes up. That’s high-key modern day slavery if you ask me.

Their bargaining power is that so many people don’t have jobs so when you go to the interview they will utilise that to get you signing up to really bad terms cause you don’t have another option. I am sure they have already replaced me with someone else and the cycle continues.

I feel for every young Kenyan man, it’s crazy out here. For everyone looking for a job or in a bad one, sending some love ❤️ Hang in there, we hope for better days.


And as with any other thread, comments, opinions and reactions started streaming in… Here are a few

What’s you got to say about wyregi_’s experience? Comment below.

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