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Court blocks flower strike, orders parties to dialogue

By | May 15th 2010

By John Oyuke

The Industrial Court has declared the looming strike by flower farm workers illegal.

Principal Judge Charles Chemmutut ordered Agricultural Employers’ Association (AEA) and Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (Kpawu) to start negotiations on Collective Bargaining Agreements of employees in the industry.

He ordered the two to commence negotiations on May 17 and report back to the Court on the progress made, if any, on May 27.

Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli, had threatened to mobilise flower firms’ employees to down their tools starting on May 17 following expiry of a strike notice due to stalled negotiations with AEA.

Mr Atwoli, also secretary general of Kpawu — which represents flower industry employees — has accused Agricultural Employers Association of disregarding workers’ welfare in the flower industry.

He has insisted the planned strike would force employers to cede ground and turn up at the negotiating table.

"The employers earned Sh36 billion, which is enough money to run several government ministries," he said. However, the employer association accuses Atwoli of scuttling the wage increment negotiations by allegedly dictating terms during their last meeting on September 8, last year.

Failed negotiations

According to AEA, Atwoli is to blame for failing to turn up or send a representative during past discussions for signing of CBA with unionisable employees.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, Kenya Flower Council (KFC) Chief Executive Jane Ngige asked the two organisations to speed up settlements of the flower farm workers’ CBAs to avert another crisis in the industry.

"We are pleased that the Principal Judge of the Industrial Court of Kenya has issued an order declaring the strike illegal. Nevertheless, Kpawu and IEA should just do their work, alongside investors who have brought in capital expecting profits," she said.

The industry, which earns an estimated Sh40 billion in foreign exchange is estimated to employee 60,000 people directly and another 500,000 in auxiliary services.

Ms Ngige said over the past two years the sector has faced crisis after crisis beginning with the early 2008 post election violence, which cost growers billions of losses followed by the global economic crisis last year.

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