State defends wage increase as employers threaten staff layoffs

Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui during the launch of the Government Trade Test in May 2021. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

The government has defended its move to increase the minimum wage by 12 per cent, which saw workers’ salaries rise from Sh13,500 to Sh15,200.

This follows complaints by some employers who have threatened not to honour the wage increment.

The State said it engaged various stakeholders, through the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, before President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the wage increase on Labour Day.

Some employers said they may be forced to lay off some of their staff to be able to meet the new directive.

Labour Cabinet Secretary (CS) Simon Chelugui, who spoke during Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) Annual General Meeting in Naivasha on Saturday, said while employers are yet to fully recover from the effects of the pandemic, the last wage review was done in 2018.

Land Bill

Mr Chelugui told flower farmers that the State will guarantee their security and that of their workers as the country heads to the polls.

The CS also assured the farmers that the government would also shoot down the controversial Land Control Bill that seeks to change the ownership of land held by foreigners. “This is a private member’s Bill and the issues raised such as land tenure, are covered by the current constitution and we don’t support it,” he said.

AEA Chairman Wilson Odoyo said some farms have already issued a notice of redundancy as they seek to meet the new pay directive by the government. Mr Odoyo said his association was not involved in the salary review process. “The move is likely to lead to heightened industrial action and even worse, job losses,” he said.

“One of the flower farms has already sent home over 200 workers. We ask the government, in future, to ensure there are consultations before such a decision is made to avoid crises.” Mr Odoyo noted that the agricultural sector is facing many challenges with the cost of farm inputs, fuel and electricity on the rise.

This, he noted, has adversely affected production and growth. Naivasha Assistant County Commissioner Fidelis Babu assured farmers and their employees of their security.

“Unlike in the past when there was massive voter transfer and relocation before polls, the situation is different this time and Naivasha is no longer a hotspot for poll-related violence,” he said.

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