Kenya Plantation Agricultural Workers Union denies flower firms relocating to Ethiopia

NAIVASHA, KENYA:  Kenya's plantation union on Monday denied reports that flower farmers are relocating to Ethiopia due to frequent labor unrest in the east African nation.

Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) Assistant General Secretary Meshack Khisa rejected reports made by county officials as alarmist and reckless.

He said that workers in the sector had the right to agitate for higher pay due to the high cost of living which had pushed up the price of basic commodities.

"The governor's statements of farmers relocating to Ethiopia is misinformed, alarmist and reckless as the flower industry has continued to grow and expand rather than shrink," Khisa said in Naivasha, about 90 km northwest of Nairobi, referring to Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, who said earlier that frequent labor unrest and high cost of production were some of the main reasons for the relocation.

Khisa complained that Kenyan workers in flower farms continued to earn "peanuts" while farmers in the European Union make millions from their sale.

"Farmers sell a bunch of flower in the Floraholland market at an equivalent salary of one employee working in the green houses (in Kenya) and thus millions in profit," he said.

Kenya's floriculture sector, a major foreign exchange earner, employs about 500,000 people directly and more than 6 million people indirectly.

According to the ministry of agriculture, the flower industry has recorded an annual growth of between 10 percent and 20 percent over the last 15 years.

"It's very regrettable for the governor to insinuate on the need to revise the current labor laws that offer social protection to the flower workers who voted for him retrogressively," Khisa said.

"Most of the job losses we witness in the sector are occasioned by quacks masquerading as human resource practitioners employed at a cheap expense," he said.