- The urged the government to expedite renewal of the company’s land lease.
- The company has 6,500 directly employed workers and another 28,000 who are indirectly employed by the firm.
The government has been urged to protect Del Monte fruit growing and processing company from possible collapse as a result of dwindling farm land.
Trade unionists, members of Federation of Kenya Employers and the company management expressed concern that the firm's land is under threat of diminishing following the recent ceding of huge portions to the counties of Murang'a and Kiambu.
The multi-national fruit juice processor has already ceded some 1400 acres and 700 acres to Murang’a and Kiambu counties respectively according to the company’s outgoing managing director Stergios Gkaliamoutsas.
The concerns were raised by speakers during the signing of collective bargaining agreements between Del Monte Ltd, Kenya Union of Commercial Food and Allied Workers and Kenya Plantation and Allied Workers Union at the company on Monday.
The urged the government to expedite renewal of the company’s land lease.
Cotu board member Boniface Kavuvi said thousands of workers who are either directly or indirectly employed by Del Monte, will be rendered jobless amid the unemployment crisis in the country.
The company has 6,500 directly employed workers and another 28,000 who are indirectly employed by the firm.
“We are pleading with the government to intervene and safeguard Del Monte’s land which is under threat of being hived off for other purposes. The firm will be forced to lay-off thousands of workers,” Kavuvi said.
Thomas Kipkemboi, the Deputy Secretary General KPAWU said the country stands to lose heavily should Del Monte go under and prevailed on the government to protect it.
He said the firm earns the country billions of shillings in foreign exchange which is vital for the country’s economic growth and stability. He said the government must give the firm a conducive operating environment.
“The government has been seeking to enhance and promote industrialisation in the country but this pillar is now under threat with the intimidation of investors. We have seen investors moving their enterprises and investments to other countries. We must not scare away investors for the sake of social-economic growth in the country,” Kipkemboi said.
Robert Muthanga of FKE said Del Monte is synonymous with the growth of Thika and should it die, the town too would be no more.
“Del Monte has contributed immensely to the growth of towns in Kiambu and Murang’a including Thika, Kabati and Kenol. Shutting down this firm will also lead to the collapse of these towns," he said.
Gkaliamoutsas hailed the CBA noting that the firm will ensure its implementation. He said workers at the firm will have a nine per cent pay rise, adding that workers who do not reside within the company’s premises will have a housing allowance of Sh2,600 to Sh5,350.
He at the same time said the company generates Sh10 billion for the country in foreign exchange annually.
“We also pay Sh2.7 billion in salaries and purchase raw materials and equipment worth Sh4 billion locally per year. We also pay taxes including Corporate tax, withheld VAT, PAYE, Excise duty, withholding tax, NSSF among others worth Sh1.4 billion annually. It has always been our endeavour to contribute to the country’s social-economic growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kavuvi said besides the land issue, the company was facing an embargo of its products in some European countries as a result of negative publicity.
"We are appealing to our friends in the media to be patriotic and tone down the negative publicity given to the company," Kavuvi said.
The unionists also came to the defence of the company workers, particularly the security guards over accusations of abuse of human rights, saying they had a duty to protect their employer's property.
Early last month, President William Ruto directed that the dispute surrounding Del Monte land be settled by October to allow construction of an Exports Processing Zone (EPZ), an industrial park, a modern hospital and an aggregation centre.
Murang’a and Kiambu counties as well as Kandara Residents Association have been tussling over the land with all parties seeking allocation of part of the 23,000-acre land held by the company.