TOUGH TIMES

Horticulture sector cant afford pay-rise, association says

They want CBA negotiations postponed

In Summary

•Over 339,000 workers employed by flower farms

•Agricultural Employers Association wants various Collective Bargaining Agreements that expire on August 1, postponed indefinitely until the horticulture sector stabilizes.

The CS for Labor Simon Cherugui (L) joins the CEO of AEA Wesley Siele (C) in a tour of Naivasha based Ol Njorowa flower farm to access effects of Covid-19 effects on the sector. The farmers want the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations postponed as they cannot afford a pay rise for their workers due to the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Farmers on salaries The CS for Labor Simon Cherugui (L) joins the CEO of AEA Wesley Siele (C) in a tour of Naivasha based Ol Njorowa flower farm to access effects of Covid-19 effects on the sector. The farmers want the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations postponed as they cannot afford a pay rise for their workers due to the crisis caused by the pandemic.
Image: George Murage

The Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) now says that it’s impossible to review workers' salaries this year due to the financial crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The association now wants various Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) that expire on August 1, postponed indefinitely until the horticulture sector stabilizes.

According to the association, it had engaged COTU and other stakeholders so that negotiations for a salary review could be suspended.

The association CEO Wesley Siele called on Labor CS Simon Cherugui to intervene adding that the farmers had incurred major losses due to the pandemic.

Siele noted that some farms were currently struggling to pay their workers as the EU market started to reopen after the total collapse two months ago.

“At the moment the employers cannot afford to review workers' salaries due to the current challenges and we are in talks with unions on how CBA negotiations can be postponed,” he said.

Speaking after visiting Naivasha based Ol Njorowa flower farm, Siele at the same time noted that the wages order council had expired and hence the need to gazette new members.

The CEO said that the flower sector was on the recovery trail with exports standing at 80 percent from a low of 20 percent a month ago.

“We appreciate the move by the government to release VAT refunds to the farmers and many of them can now be able to pay their workers,” he said.

He however expressed his concern over the high cost of farm inputs and flight charges terming them as the major challenges farmers were currently experiencing.

 

On his part, the MD Ol Njorowa farm David Mousley said that high flight charges remained the major challenge as the sector returned to business.

Mousley added that the flooding of Lake Naivasha had also affected flower farms around the water body with tens of their acres submerged in water.

“Currently we have started shipping out part of our production and we are concerned by the high farm inputs but also grateful for the VAT refunds from the government,” he said.

During the visit, Nakuru Deputy Governor Dr. Eric Korir said that the timber sector in Elburgon area within the county had also been adversely affected.

He noted that since the logging ban was introduced two years ago, over 25,000 people had been rendered jobless.

“We know that the ban was meant to help increase the country’s forest cover but many people have been left jobless and there is need to support them,” he said.