Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki raised workers’ basic minimum wages by 13.1% on Tuesday, during national celebrations to mark the International Labour Day and warned against rising threat of child labour.
In a speech, read by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, the Kenyan leader said more than 1 million children were involved in child labour and termed the situation as “unacceptable.”
He said a new labour policy would be in place to stop this threat.
The announcement of a 13% hike, from the 12.5% announced in 2011, came amid complaints that food prices have been rising, worsened by the escalating international oil prices, which have also raised the cost of industrial goods.
This year’s labour day came amid investors’ concerns that rising demand for payhikes could slow down the rate of new investments in a volatile election year in the East African nation, which is rated to have the most advanced labour markets in the region.
Kibaki said a survey had been conducted to enable the authorities to put in place effective policies to facilitate the running of the labour markets. The results of that survey are currently being evaluated and would be shared with the relevant groups.
Jackline Mugo, the Executive Director of the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), warned about the continuing threat of workers strike and called for talks with the Confederation of Trade Unions (COTU) to avert the strikes.
Kenyan workers have warned of a possible strike on 14 May, to oppose a plan to hike the monthly compulsory deductions remitted to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF),
COTU Secretary-General Francis Atwoli said the hike was unacceptable and was mooted by a section of politicians and business leaders to rob poor workers.
Labour Minister John Munyes, said the government was also worried by the poor working conditions of thousands of workers employed in the horticulture sector.
Munyes said there was also a need to avoid growing disagreements between workers and employers over the recently formed National Remunerations Commission, a statutory body created to oversee the salaries of all civil servants.
Under the laws of Kenya, all non-salaried workers are required to enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the employer while the non-skilled workforce and short-term contracts are governed by the minimum wage.
Munyes said the government has created the horticulture sector to enable the relevant authorities to act against the violation of workers’ rights.
The minister also called on the FKE to stop its strong opposition for calls to improve the welfare of thousands of workers employed in the salt mining sector at the coast.
Kenya’s coastal province produces salt, fluorspar and other minerals but the workers in the sector remains poorly paid.
Kenya’s manufacturing sector currently employs about 14% of the national workforce while agriculture, which contributes 25% of the national wealth, employs about 75%.