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Tea workers lose lucrative pay raise

By Otiato Guguyu | Published Sat, February 24th 2018 at 00:00, Updated February 23rd 2018 at 23:53 GMT +3

Two economists have helped convince the Court of Appeal to revise tea workers’ pay demands down by about half.

The Court of Appeal threw out a Labour Court ruling by Nairobi Industrial Court Judge Lillian Njega granting tea workers a 30 per cent pay.

The tea pluckers allied to the Kenya Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union (KPAWU) will now get 16 per cent hike for 2014 and 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Judge Alnasir Visram, Judge W Karanja and Judge M Koome ruled that their labour court colleague erred by ignoring expert analysis by Dr George Kosimbei and Dr Paul Kiprono.

“In this case, the learned judge erred by firstly ignoring expert evidence adduced on behalf of the appellant (Kenya Tea Growers Association),” the Appeal Court ruled.

Dr Kosimbei in a paper titled Economic Background Paper indicated that production costs were higher than tea prices hence the 30 per cent was too much for tea factories under Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA).

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The tea firms had argued that they were paying pickers around Sh275 but with the 30 per cent package they would be paying Sh600.

Dr Kiprono, who has a PHD in Agronomy, on the other part argued that Tea growers did not set prices which are determined by market auctions and hence their workers should not peg increases on inflation.

Retirement age

He argued that the only way workers could earn more was if they picked larger volumes of tea. Tea workers suffered a further blow as some benefits were withdrawn including the retirement age which was cut to 55 from 60 years.

The employees will only get one resting day a week without any additional payment. Medical treatment was revised down by Sh2,300 and they will now only get Sh27,000.

KTGA CEO Appolo Kiarii said that the appellate court was considerate and looked at all the serious issues raised by the tea industry players.

“We welcome the ruling, but also say that we are determined to continue improving the living standards of our workers,” said Kiarii.

But KPAWU Deputy Secretary General Meshach Khisa, who also doubles up as the union’s lawyer wondered how Court of Appeal judges adjudged a tea picker to pluck more than a tonne.

“What criteria did the judges use to arrive at the decision that a tea picker can be able to pick more than 1,170 kilograms of tea a month?” he questioned.

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