Kenya: Workers threaten to stop leasing of state factories over unpaid salaries

Sugarcane industry workers have threatened to stop the leasing of state-owned factories over pending salary dues totalling Sh5.3 billion. They warned that any attempt by the government to proceed with the leasing process would be met with a court order suspending the action until their payments are made, reported local media.

Represented by the Kenya Union of Sugarcane Plantation and Allied Workers, the workers voiced their frustration, noting that even President William Ruto failed to address their pending dues during the Madaraka Day celebrations in Bungoma. Union Secretary General Francis Wangara stated that they were supposed to receive their dues before the factories were leased, as promised by the government. However, the President only mentioned that the leasing process was ongoing and did not address their arrears.

“It is unfortunate that as we speak today, we have kept on living on promises and there is nothing tangible we can say has happened. The workers’ arrears totalling Sh5.3 billion, as approved by AFA, have not been settled up to now,” Wangara said.

The workers explained that out of the total amount owed, Sh600 million was to be included in the supplementary budget. This sum would then be distributed among the Nzoia, Chemelil, Sony, and Muhoroni factories, with each receiving Sh150 million. “This is what we expected the head of state to pronounce when he was in Bungoma, but he mentioned different things and nothing about workers’ arrears,” Wangara added.

The day after the celebrations, while in Kimilili, President Ruto mentioned he was going to pay Sh100 million to Nzoia workers. This announcement did not sit well with the group, who argued that paying workers from only one of the four factories owed amounted to unequal treatment. “Our appeal was that everybody has to be paid what is due to them. If he has decided to address it because he was in Bungoma, are we going to wait until he comes to Nyanza to address these issues? No, it should not be the case. Anything that is happening should be done equally,” the Secretary-General said.

The workers also criticized the privatization process, insisting that leasing would not proceed until all workers were paid their dues. “We are anchoring this on the court case which stopped the privatization process. So we are not going to allow that to happen until our people are paid in totality,” Wangara stated.

He emphasized that the union had no intention of escalating the conflict but would reactivate the court case and obtain orders prohibiting the leasing if their demands were ignored. “We are not going to entertain anything less, because it’s not right to believe that nothing can happen when the government is in the position to do everything they are asking for.”

“This is the time they should factor in the amount to be paid to workers so that they can proceed freely with investors who intend to take over the institutions and have clearly stated they will not assume any debt whatsoever,” he said.

Wangara also mentioned that farmers had been partially paid, with only about 20 per cent of their dues still pending, while workers had not received any payment. To resolve the issue, the group suggested that the Sh600 million be included in the supplementary budget and paid out to workers, with the remaining amount considered in the main budget.


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