The Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation and Allied Workers (KUSPAW) has expressed willingness to withdraw court case filed to stop the leasing of state-owned sugar factories.
This follows a deal struck between the union and governors from the Lake Region Economic Bloc (LREB) to address the issues raised by the union.
LREB Chairman who is also Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya and his Kisumu counterpart Prof Anyang Nyong’o held a meeting with the union representatives in Kisumu and conceded that the workers have a valid case that should be addressed.
The union moved to court last week to stop the leasing of five state-owned sugar factories claiming that the workers were not involved in the discussions.
KUSPAW petitioned the labour court to stop the process until a representative of the workers is gazzetted to be part of the committee overseeing the exercise.
The deal signed by LREB and KUSPAW will see the union’s secretary general Francis Wangara gazzetted as a member of the leasing committee.
Wangara who assured the governors that the case shall be withdrawn upon the gazzetment, said he moved to court after attempts to reach out to Agriculture Cabinet Secretary (CS) Peter Munya over the matter failed.
He said the workers must be part of the leasing exercise since the sugar factories in question owe them Sh5 billion salary arrears and statutory deductions.
“All we want is to have a representation of workers in the leasing committee to address their plight ahead of the planned leasing,” he said.
Addressing the media in Kisumu on Wednesday, Oparanya said Agriculture CS Peter Munya had accepted to gazzete the secretary general to facilitate the withdrawal of the case.
“We have briefed the CS about our meeting with the union and what we have deliberated on and he has assured us of his full support,” he said.
He assured the workers that the arrears shall be cleared and other pending matters shall be addressed by the national government.
On his part, Prof Nyong’o said leasing of the state-owned sugar mills was the only way out to address the challenges facing the sector in the country.
“This is the only way out of this problem. We could not think of any other option,” he said.
The government recently established a team to guide the process of leasing out Chemelil Sugar, Miwani Sugar (under receivership), Muhoroni Sugar (under receivership), Nzoia Sugar and South Nyanza Sugar Company to inject capital and resuscitate the sector, which is now on its knees.
So far 29 firms have expressed interest to take over the management of the five troubled sugar factories.
By Chris Mahandara/George Kaiga