1 May 2014

Kenya: Workers Fury After Govt Fails to Announce Pay Increase

Nairobi — Workers left Uhuru Park, the venue of Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi dejected after the government failed to award them a pay increase.

With the harsh economic times, workers interviewed said they were expecting the government to announce a pay increase to cushion them.

"I know this is bitter to swallow but this is a new government and we have just finished crawling.

The government is willing and ready to make sure that its workers are properly paid," Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi said, adding "The government has discussed with all concerned parties and has agreed that before the end of the year, after ascertaining how our economic indexes are we will be able to increase the salaries of the workers."

He said the government intends to hold talks with stakeholders such as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), Public Service Commission (PSC) and the workers movement Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) in making the decision.

He however, assured workers that the government is fully aware of what they are undergoing due to the sky-rocketing commodity prices in the country.

"We know the needs of the workers and we are requesting for patience so that we agree on the salaries that the government can sustain. I do not want to deceive you," he said, and assured, "we will do it as soon as we are done with our review of the economy."

Workers who attended the ceremony said they were not convinced with Kambi's reason of not increasing their salary.

"If the CS was serious then he should have come here to tell us how much they are adding and not about plans to increase. When the poor are experiencing hardships then who takes care of us as we wait for an increase?" questioned Joel Omollo.

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli, while urging the government to cater for the welfare of workers, further warned government officials to keep off from its affairs, saying it amounts to pushing the workers umbrella body to join politics.

Atwoli said that the union and their officials remain neutral and warned legislators to avoid riding on it to fight their political feuds.

"Any legislator who wants to push us into politics, we beg them that we want to remain neutral. Those we represent are from all tribes and we don't want to go that route," he pleaded.

Speaking at the celebrations, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Ole Lenku also called for tolerance and harmony amongst the unions, in the wake of feuds between COTU and the newly launched Federation of Public Service Trade Unions of Kenya (PUSETU) which had vowed to participate in Thursday's celebrations, despite a court order.

"This is the day of the Kenyan worker. It is the day that we are all supposed to reflect on how we should create an environment of prosperity for the country," Lenku said, "Anything that goes against that spirit for this day is not in the Kenyan spirit. We should find a way to embrace to thank the men and women who have helped this country."

Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Adan Duale who was also present at the celebrations assured Atwoli that the Jubilee government will not meddle in COTU affairs?

"We have serious social economic agendas for the country; we have no business in meddling in worker unions. I can speak for the president and the government," he said.

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