The government has today not announced any wage increment for workers in the country as it normally does every year.
Last year the government announced a wage increase of 5 per cent for the workers, a move that was however gazzeted this year in January.
Giving a keynote address during this year’s Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Labour Cabinet Secretary (CS), Amb.Ukur Yattani, however said that there were discussions on wage increase matters late in the week.
“We are still in the process of negotiating wages between employers and employee and will be able to make a decision in the course of the week,” he said.
Central Organization of Trade union (COTU) had demanded for a minimum wage of 15 percent this year.
According to Amb. Yattani, the government has however introduced reform initiative that nurtures integrated system of productivity improvement and work culture across government ministries and agencies with a view to ensuring efficient and effective service delivery to wananchi
Noting the importance of industrial harmony, he added that the ministry has also established an elaborate institutional mechanism for management of industrial conflict and fostering social dialogue.
“The industrial relation landscape in the country however has been turbulent in the recent past particularly in the public sector with health and education sector most affected.
“The strikes and work stoppages in the two sectors have continued to deny Kenyans essential services and inflicting immeasurable suffering and inconvenience not mentioning the negative image it portrays of the country,” the CS said.
To mitigate the hazardous effects of strikes, Amb. Yattani said the ministry has established an alternative dispute resolution organ with a fully serviced secretariat to handle all labour-related disputes.
This mechanism, he added is not only expeditious and cost effective but also preserves good relations between workers and employers.
“It has established a panel of conciliators consisting of 13 prominent labour experts to facilitate the process of dispute resolutions that has already led to successful resolution of complex dispute of between KNUT and TSC and also between Council of Governor and ministry of health on one side and Kenya union of nurses on the other,” the CS noted.
The alternative dispute resolution group has further developed labour relations bill 2018 that is expected to recognize the dispute resolution in both public and private sectors and it is now awaiting public participation.
“Reform measures also strengthening policy and legal framework from review of industrial policy and wages remuneration policies with a view to aligning them to constituency and global practices has also been initiated,” Yattani said.
The COTU Secretary General (SG), Francis Atwoli complained of the archaic labour laws still in place and gave an example where some employers are denying their works right to join unions.
Atwoli however, said that the union is fully supporting the government on ending corruption and also on a referendum.
On the issue of increased wages, the SG called on the government to come out and support workers and also create jobs.“Last year the 5 percent wage increament given to workers was only gazetted in January,” he said.
Atwoli also came out today to castigate the Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC), saying their mandate is meant to advice but not to regulate workers’ pay. “There is no need to arrest union leaders in dispute,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nairobi Governor, Mike Mbuvi Sonko called on government to increase allocation of money given to counties saying that the money they receive from national government only pays salaries.
“As the Council of Governors, we want the government budget to allocate more money to the devolved governments since the 15 percent that is given is not enough,” he said.
Nairobi, the governor explained has a huge challenge of agigantic pending bill it inherited amounting to Sh. 60 billion.
He gave an example of the Nairobi National Park and also levies charged from hotels in Nairobi whose revenue goes to the national government. “In the spirit of devolution we need to share this revenue,” he said.
As the third largest employer in Kenya after the teachers service commission and the uniformed officers, Governor Sonko noted that currently the country has over 13,000 employees with salaries of Sh. 14 billion a year but a with a monthly wage bill of Sh.152 billion.
“The Nairobi County and national government is negotiating so that we can be able to settle the county debts with what the national government owes us in order that
we pay statutory bodies such as Lap Fund and Lap Trust and the talks are at an advanced stage,” he said.
Sonko reiterated that his government has further waived all rental arrears in city county houses since most of the tenants were retirees of the council and had been undergoing threats by cartels.
However the governor urged the tenants to now start paying their rent in time and also support the county as they will replace the rent card that they normally use and introduce lease agreements.
The Celebrations today were low key with most Nairobians not attending the event. However it was graced by opposition’s leaders led by Wiper Party leader, Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC’s Musalia Mudavadi and Bungoma Senator, Moses Wetangula are among other leaders and members of parliament.
By Wangari Ndirangu