The Government has remained silent on job losses even as employers insisted their backs are against on the wall.
Speaking at a workshop in Nairobi, Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie steered clear of the issue, moments after Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) boss Jacqueline Mugo had said employers had resorted to laying off workers as a “last-ditch effort” to save their enterprises.
“A decision to lay off workers is a last-ditch effort to save an enterprise. How will you make sure as a country that we retain our workers and in fact create more employment?” wondered Mugo. Instead, Ms Kandie, while speaking during a national dialogue on the future of work in Kenya, noted continued automation and digitisation might have had a substantive effect in changing the labour environment.
However, she said the conference, which brought together labour unions, FKE and ILO as the facilitator, was one among a string of consultative meetings the ministry is going to have in a move to address the labour crisis. About 20 companies have sent home over 10,000 employees in 2016 alone in what is turning out to be the biggest labour crisis in the country.
Although employers have cited a tough business environment as the main reason for the mass lay-offs, official figures have painted an impressive economic environment, a situation that has left many confused on the true state of the economy.
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Figures from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicate the economy grew by about 6.2 per cent even as appropriate monetary policy ensured that the economy was not overheated.
COTU, the largest association of trade unions, announced it would soon be revealing the number of employees who have been laid off in what it sees as an “unprecedented” job haemorrhage.
Trade unions, led by COTU, expressed concerns that the work environment in the country was changing so much that machines were rapidly replacing human beings, a pattern that they believe is going to throw many into joblessness.