Employers in Kenya have rejected a push by trade unions to effect an increase in wages this year. The talks involved the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Labour Ministry through the Wages Council.
It has been four years since the last minimum wage increase was announced in 2018 – an 18% increase to cushion workers from inflation. The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) was spearheading the push to have wages increased ahead of Labour Day celebrations this year on May 1.
COTU, led by Francis Atwoli, was pushing for a 23.4% increase in the minimum wage. The gazetted minimum wage for general labour currently stands at Ksh7,241.
The review would take it to Ksh8,935. Only a few days ago, Atwoli had expressed confidence that they would strike the deal despite the government’s position that it was strapped for cash.
COTU was initially pushing for a 40.2% increase but eased its stance as talks progressed.
Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) CEO Jane Mugo described workers’ demands as ‘crazy’ in a new interview with Business Daily. Citing tough economic conditions, she maintained that the status quo should be maintain to allow businesses to continue their recovery.
“We are trying to get workers to see the reason that this is not the time to increase minimum wages but they have refused. They are just making crazy demands.”
“An increase is ill-advised. So far our discussions have hit a snag,” she stated.
Workers argue that the sky-rocketing cost of living which has seen prices of key food commodities rise, the fuel shortage, as well as the lingering effects of the pandemic which saw incomes and jobs lost, justify an increase.
“We have asked His Excellency the President to make sure (we get the increase)…we considered after collecting data related to consumer price indices, issues relating to inflation, and data that shows there is rampant erosion of purchasing power among Kenyans (who) cannot afford the basic needs and the basic requirements in their houses,” Atwoli told a press conference on April 21.