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Union signs new pay deal for flower worker

A new pay deal for flower workers in the country is being worked out and will be signed in coming few weeks, Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture, and Allied Workers Union (KEFHAU) National Chairman, Peter Palanga, has said.

Palanga said negotiations on the collective bargaining agreement between KEFHAU and flower firms in various parts of the country were at an advanced stage.

The Chairman indicated that the Union had started operations last year after signing a Recognition Agreement with Agricultural Employers Association (AEA), which incorporates Flower Growers Group of employers, and thousands of employees.

For the past 11 years KEFHAU and Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) led by Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General, Mr Francis Atwoli, have engaged in a tussle over members, which on various occasions ended up in court.

Mr Palanga said the Union had adopted modern governance structures and effective communication strategies designed to prevent unrests and avert work stoppages in farms whenever there were disputes between workers and employees.

“We are fully embracing dialogue in resolving problems. KEFHAU frowns upon militant acts against employers. All grievances should be resolved in an amicable manner with a view to achieving sustainable industrial peace,” he said.

Speaking after the Union signed a collective bargaining agreement for over 1,500 employees of Flora-Ola flower firm within Naivasha Sub-county, Mr Palanga indicated that KEFHAU was further lobbying state agencies to extend incentives and offer an enabling environment for local and foreign investors in the horticultural industry.

The National Chairman added, “The sector is reeling from Covid-19 economic aftershocks and natural disasters particularly rising waters of Lake Naivasha that left more than 10 flower farms submerged leading to losses of hundreds of jobs. To discourage capital flights and attract new investments, Kenya needs to subsidize energy costs and review tax regimes in the industry with a view of creating more jobs,”.

Upon implementation of the CBA, the starting basic salary for employees of Flora-Ola flower firm will be at least Sh7,500 and Sh12,500, while overtime and fully paid maternity have been incorporated in the agreement.

“This CBA deal is a big win for the majority of unskilled workers. They will, going forward, work for 46 hours a week and any work beyond the stipulated hours has to be consensual and treated as overtime,” he affirmed

Mr Palanga said KEFHAU was willing to work with KPAWU in defending rights and promoting welfare of workers in the industry instead of wrangling in courts of law.

Last year the Supreme Court threw out an appeal by KPAWU, which was challenging the decision by the Registrar of Trade Unions to license.

The Court of Appeal had in 2018 thrown out a similar appeal forcing the workers’ umbrella body to seek the intervention of the Supreme Court.

While upholding the decision by the Registrar of Trade Unions to register KEFHAU, the judges said that all the legal processes had been followed.

In 2019 KPAWU survived an attempt to stop it from representing over 60,000 workers in the horticulture industry.

KEFHAU had filed a case in the Employment and Labour seeking to bar the Atwoli-led Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) from representing workers in the industry.

KEFHAU wanted the court to declare that it is the sole trade union, which is allowed by its constitution to carry out activities in the export floriculture and vegetable industry, and an order restraining Mr Atwoli’s union from representing workers in that area.

Justice James Rika, however, dismissed the claim and ruled that the dispute should have been taken through conciliation, and was therefore presented in court prematurely.

According to the Labour Relations Act 2007, before a new Union is registered, the promoters are required to write to the registrar of trade unions and present their constitution.

Gazette notice is then published to notify the public of plans to register the new union. If no objection is raised, the Union is allowed to start recruiting members.

By Anne Mwale and Dennis Rasto 

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