Fill vacuum at National Social Security Fund and lower taxes, State told

Kenyan workers pleaded with the government to lower tax rates on income and abolish tax on allowances, as employers raised alarm over the leadership vacuum at the National Social Security Fund, which has exposed billions of workers‘ money in pensions.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) secretary general Francis Atwoli, his counterpart from the rival union –Trade Unions Congress — Wilson Sossion said the studies they had done, and which they had filed with the government, showed Kenyan workers are among those taxed heavily.

At the 50th Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi‘s Uhuru Park presided over by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the workers‘ bosses also said tax evasion had cost the economy at least Sh137 billion because of corruption.

“There‘s a need to review the tax regime in this country... the tax on allowances should be zero-rated,“ said Sossion.

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It was a rare show of unity as Sossion and Atwoli shared the podium in presenting a united front to the government in the quest for better terms for thousands of workers in formal and informal sector.

The employers‘ story of high labour costs and a huge wage bill, plus the bureaucratic red-tape in government that slows down business persisted, but this time, they said productivity will be key in growing the economy.

The Federation of Kenya Employers asked the government to fix the leadership vacuum at the NSSF by making sure there‘s a new board of trustees and a new chief executive, to safeguard billions of workers‘ money.

“The NSSF cannot transact business because it has no board. The Fund is highly exposed,“ said Jacqueline Mugo, the Executive Director of FKE. The employers and workers were united in their accolades to the acting Labour Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo whom they said was cordial and had “changed the tone of dialogue“ in the handling of labour relations in the country.

“For the few days she (CS Omamo) has been with us, she has initiated a lot of reforms,“ Atwoli told President Kenyatta, who was forced to drop the substantive Labour Cabinet Secretary Kambi Kazungu over corruption allegations.

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There was unanimity in government, workers, and employers that the push and pull over pay, that often leads to loss in productivity and wastes man-hours, was unnecessary.

CS Omamo promised to “walk together“ with workers as they engage in social dialogue.

Meanwhile, Atwoli asked the President to sack the five Cabinet Secretaries and top State officials currently on suspension over corruption-related allegations. “Those suspended over graft allegations should not come back. In Western Kenya we say when you are pricked by a little thorn and you ignore it because it is small, the thorn will eventually kill you,’’ he said.

Atwoli also praised the President for appointing the elderly to government jobs, because “they are the ones who need drugs”, given the age-related ailments.

“Ukisikia Atwoli akikwambia fulani ni mwizi, yeye ni mwizi (when Atwoli says someone is a thief and is corrupt, please believe it. That person is a thief),” he added.

Additional reporting by Daniel Psirmoi

national social security fundNSSFfrancis atwoliCOTUlabour day