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Union to withdraw case following inclusion in sugar mills leasing team

But government must also commit to paying farmers due as earlier agreed with the governors

In Summary

• Agriculture CS Peter Munya appointed Francis Wangara, the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers secretary general and two others to the committee on September 4.

• The others are Lake Region Economic Bloc CEO Abala Wanga and Ben Okumu.

Francis Wangara, the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers general secretary
Francis Wangara, the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers general secretary
Image: Faith Matete

A workers union representative has been included in the committee overseeing the leasing of five state-owned sugar mills. 

Following the appointment, the union has begun a process to withdraw a case they filed to halt the leasing of the mills.  

Agriculture CS Peter Munya appointed Francis Wangara, the Kenya Union of Sugar Plantation and Allied Workers general secretary and two others to the committee on September 4.

The others are Lake Region Economic Bloc CEO Abala Wanga and Ben Okumu.

Wangara told the Star on phone they had written to the Attorney General and an advocate representing the Ministry of Agriculture on their drafted consent.

He said the government must also commit to paying farmers due as earlier agreed with the governors.

Labour court judge Nduma Nderi halted the process of leasing the firms until the case filed by the union is heard and determined.

The union argued that their concerns of Sh5 billion salary arrears and debts owed to them by the factories had not been addressed.

The factories include Chemelil Sugar, Miwani Muhoroni (under receivership), Nzoia Sugar and Sony.

The workers representative and Council of Governors chairman Wyclife Oparanya met in August and agreed to work on the conditions.

Oparanya said the agreement smoothens the roadblock that would have seen the process which is currently at the tail end hit a snag.

He noted that the union has a valid case of salary arrears and statutory deductions that require to be considered during the leasing process.

They also agreed that union general secretary will be a member of the interim management committee on leasing of the state-owned sugar mills.

The meeting resolved that the millers shall pay all the salary arrears for the workers and if there is a dispute arising from the arrears the government will take over.

Oparanya said the journey to bring back cane growing in the region to productivity has been long, with the LREB taking the lead in steering the process.

Through their lobbying, President Uhuru Kenyatta formed the Sugar Task Force which recommended the leasing as opposed to the privatization of the mills.

The Sugar Task Force was co-chaired by the then Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Mwangi Kiunjuri and Oparanya.