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More unions warn MPs over proposed taxes

 Unions' peaceful procession from the UoN to Parliament Buildings to protest against the Finance Bill 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Public sector unions have warned Members of Parliament to be wary of voting for the controversial Finance Bill 2023, once it gets to the floor of the National Assembly, saying it is a litmus test for Kenyans to know the leaders they voted for.

Speaking after handing over their petition to the National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula at Parliament Buildings, in Nairobi on Monday, the unions said Kenyans will be watching carefully to know whether their welfare is well considered by the people they got into office.

“Let them know that this time, Kenyans will know exactly who has their best interest,” Universities’ Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Secretary General Constantine Wesonga said. They threatened to take to the streets should the Bill be passed, condemning the Kenya Kwanza legislators for ‘boasting’ that they will pass the Bill without a single amendment.

“I am the Majority Whip and let me tell you that the Bill will sail through. The earlier you accept it the better,” said South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro during a church service on Sunday.

But unions led by the chairman of Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Patrick Wachira said they are ready to take the streets should the Bill sail through. “The next morning, 6am after they pass the Bill is that we will be on the streets. Let them get ready for us,’’ he said

The 15 unions among them, Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Uasu and the Kenya Union of Nurses held a peaceful procession march from the University of Nairobi to Parliament Buildings to protest against the Finance Bill 2023.

The unions want the Bill amended before it is passed and assented into law. In their petition, they claim there has been no salary increment for over six years hence the additional taxes will be a heavy burden to the Kenyan workers.”There have been no salary increments despite the high cost of living and increase in inflation that has been recorded in the same period. Therefore, the plethora of proposed taxes and levis will render public servants as slaves,’’ the petition reads in part.

The unions are also against the housing levy, noting that the workers need to be fully engaged and their views put into consideration. They warn that the government is in total violation of section 26 (2) of the Employment Act 2007.

The levy seeks to tax three per cent of workers’ monthly basic salary and a similar percentage by employees to fund President William Ruto’s affordable housing project.

The unions also opposed an increase in the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) warning that “the proposed increase to 2.75 per cent of one’s gross income and not basic salary as the new NHIF rebate would make the fund a fat cash cow for the corrupt cartels,’’ the petition reads

The union’s demands come as public hearings on the Bill enter day eight. It’s reported that the National Assembly has received at least 1,000 memoranda opposing various sections in the Bill.

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