- The union wants the state to rescind its decision on Housing Levy saying the workers are hurting and struggling to put food on the table.
- The union said they do not remember the last time salaries for the workers were reviewed yet NHIF, NSSF and other taxes have been increased.
A trade union has faulted the government for introducing new taxes and levies on essential goods and services amidst hard economic times.
The Kenya Union of Water and Sewerage Employees Nairobi Water branch secretary Wycliffe Onditi, said the government should find alternative means of sustaining the economy without burdening struggling workers with punitive taxes.
“As the workers in the water and sanitation sector, we have nothing much to celebrate. Despite workers offering critical and essential services, they are grappling with skyrocketing cost of living. Just like other Kenyans, they pay taxes as a patriotic duty, but arbitrary increase in taxes hurts them. The intention of tax hike may be good but the problem is making it punitive,” Onditi said.
He said the government must rescind its decision on Housing Levy saying the workers are hurting and are struggling to put food on the table at a time many of them lost employment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We condemn the government’s proposal to impose housing levy without commensurate increment in the workers’ pay. It is insensitive to the struggling workers. It has been long since the government reviewed salaries for the workers considering the fact that NHIF, NSSF and other taxes have been on the increase with the same stagnant salary that workers have been earning over the years.”
President William Ruto announced that civil servants will start contributing three per cent of their income to a Housing Fund.
He said this was part of a plan the state will soon introduce.
Ruto said the contribution will help civil servants purchase houses built under the Affordable Housing project.
"To enable many Kenyans to buy houses under the affordable housing project, we have a housing fund to which we want every Kenyan to contribute three per cent of their income. If you earn Sh10,000, three per cent is Sh300 every month which goes towards the fund," Ruto said.
The move has however been opposed by various players including teachers.
Onditi also called on different actors—counties, National government, legislators, Civil Society, development partners and the private sector—to find a lasting solution to the problem of youth unemployment.
“As a union in the water sector, we recognise and appreciate that youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb. We continue to advocate for robust interventions, plans, policies and programmes in the sector to realise significant opportunities for the large number of young people who are in need of jobs. If left unaddressed, given its gravity and magnitude, there is going to be a rise in crime and insecurity in the country.”
The union official also noted that clean and safe water is out of reach to the significant population in the country, and called on the government to progressively increase capitation to develop new and alternative sources of water to ensure the right to clean water as a human right is realised.
Onditi added, “United Nations General Assembly, through Resolution 64/292, explicitly recognises the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledges that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential for the realisation of all human rights.”
He also added that the Constitution of Kenya under Article 43 (1) (d) provides that every person has the right to clean and safe water in adequate quantities.
The umbrella organisation for workers in the water sector lauded the government’s ambitious plans to plant 15 billion trees in the next five years to counter climate change effects which have resulted in devastating droughts.
“Water sector is a climate change sensitive sector. If water sources and catchments dry up, there are going to be unprecedented job losses and economic catastrophe. Tree planting is an insurance cover against job losses. Forests are sources of clean drinking water. Forested catchments supply a large proportion of water used for domestic, agricultural and industrial needs,” Onditi said.