• Kenya is among leading producer of flowers.
• It’s however facing stiff competition from Ethiopia.
The Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) is crying foul over a rising trend by some flower farmers in Naivasha to employ workers on seasonal contracts.
The union termed the exercise which is meant to tame the rising wage bill as illegal, noting that it locks the workers from getting any annual pay rise or retirement benefits.
The move comes barely a week after workers failed to get salary increment during the Labor Day Celebrations, which were graced by President William Ruto.
In the last couple of years, flower farmers have identified the cost of labor, electricity, fertiliser and air freight charges as the biggest challenge facing them.
According to KPAWU secretary-general, Naivasha branch, Ferdinand Juma, the new trend was meant to lock out workers from being represented by the trade union.
Speaking during a consultative meeting, Juma noted that seasonal workers were not entitled to pay rise and other benefits enjoyed by permanent employees.
“We have seen cases where investors are employing workers on a seasonal basis meaning that they cannot get the annual pay rise or leave as per the labour laws,” he said.
Juma added that the union could do little when it came to seasonal workers, as they were not members of KPAWU, a common trend in many farms.
“The ongoing exercise to employ workers on contract basis is well-planned and meant to lock out the union and phase out the issue of annual pay increase,” he said.
He added that the impasse around the increase in NSSF contributions had also raised tension in the sector, with many farmers saying that they could not afford the new rates.
An expert in the sector, Samson Okumu, said that harsh economic times mainly in Europe had eroded the purchasing powers of consumers and hence the budgetary cuts by the farmers.
“Gone are the days that flower farmers used to make millions in profit and many are barely surviving with the new taxes and rising cost of farm inputs worsening the situation,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the CEO Kenya Flower Council (KFC) Clement Tulezi accused the government of double-speak and for failing to address challenges facing the sector.
He said that the sector employs over 200,000 and was one of the top foreign exchange earners in the country, but has failed to get the deserved attention.
“The government claims that it is supporting farming so as to increase production but instead, it is slapping the sector with unrealistic taxes leading to stagnation,” he said.