Tea pickers at Kericho's James Finlays yesterday threatened to go on strike against the forced use of sheers. About 13,000 tea pickers from the company said they will join the teachers and doctors to force the company to suspend the use of sheers to pick tea. They said the sheers earns them Sh5 per kilo as opposed to the Sh10 for the manual system.
The workers had staged an hour long strike to protest the forced use of the sheers last Friday. The pickers said the sheers earn them less money per kilo of harvested green leaves compared to manual tea picking. Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union Kericho branch secretary Joshua Maywen appealed to the government to intervene. He wants the tea company forced to revert back to the manual ways.
By forcing the company to allow manual tea picking which was earning them sh 10 per kilo as opposed to sh 5 paid through use of sheers. Maywen said KPAWU may be forced to issue a 21-day strike notice to the company.
He threatened to go to court should the company insist on the use of the sheers. He said use of sheers comes after yet another major protest against the use of small engine propelled tea picking machines were introduced in late 90s, threatening the over 100,000 workforce in the tea industry.
"The sheers system is tiring to the workers. It also results in substandard leaves and poor earnings to the workers," Maywen said Forty of the 960 workers from Kapsongoi Tea Estate visited the KPAWU offices in Kericho to protest against the use of the sheers. They accused the estate's manager Sammy Mutai of insisting on the use of the sheers. The use of sheers in tea picking comes after engine propelled machines were rejected in the 1990s.