The government on Tuesday announced a 5 percent rise in minimum wage for workers
Speaking during the International Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social protection (CS), Ukur Yattani called for dialogue between workers unions and the government.
He noted that a lot of man hours were lost due to the numerous industrial strikes since last year hence the need for a more consultative approach in order to move forward.
“Strikes that took place in the past one year have seen the country record a loss of 100 million man hours which is a great concern for a developing nation like ours,” Yattani revealed.
The CS said that the government was committed to attain sustainable economic growth that would guarantee jobs
“I urge all tripartite partners in labour administration to take the lead in achieving a structured dialogue. By so doing we shall be acting in the context of this year’s labour theme: Let’s Reason Together for Sustainable Economic Growth and Job Security,” he urged.
During the celebrations, Central Organization Trade Union (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli said the union supported the big four agenda by the government but said this could only work if workers were involved in decision making and also remunerated them well.
“As COTU, we support the four pillars of the economy but if the government does not address the harmonized labour laws across the sectors then it will be not be achievable”, he said
He emphasized that they were opposed to the changes to the Labour Relations Act, 2007 and Employment Act, 2007 currently in parliament arguing that it would undermine the workers’ rights to go on strike to demand for better pay and their rights to engage in collective bargaining.
Atwoli further called upon the CS and his ministry to tame the numerous deaths being reported in the Gulf and mistreatment of Kenyan workers by coming up with legislation that will address their issues.
The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) Executive Director, Jackline Mugo said the proposal to review NHIF and NSSF law to remove COTU and FKE from the board will not work and can only be valid through engagement with stakeholders.
She said that although great strides have been made in improving conditions of employees, there is still room for improvement and called upon the government to address the challenge of the shrinking formal sector.
“Formal sector shrunk to 16 percent in employment and economy created only 100,000 jobs against 1.2 million meaning we need to change the structure of employment in the country,” she said.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) last week said there was a 7.6 per cent increase in new jobs under the 2018 Economic Survey Report with most of the new jobs being in the informal sector.
According to the survey, some 897,000 new jobs were created in 2017 compared to 832,900 new jobs created in 2016.
Mugo further said the high labour cost in the country endangers jobs and employers have to rethink of a wage setting policy that will offer workers decent income.
Former Prime Minister and leader of NASA, Raila Odinga who attended the celebrations today called off the civil disobedience and product boycott they had imposed on several companies.
“We have forgiven Bidco , Safaricom, Brookside and Hako industries”, he said following his calls to his supporters last year to boycott the products from industries he said were allied to jubilee government.
Keyan economic survey 2018 released last week saw that the informal sector accounted for the lion’s share of the new jobs at 747,000, a marginal decline from 747,300 new informal sector jobs posted in 2016.
Kenya’s economy grew by 5.8 percent in 2017 from 5.4 with improvements having been supported by macro-economic environment and great sectoral improvement that came from the Agriculture, insurance, manufacturing and finance sectors.
By Wangari Ndirangu