Tea multinationals say wages could account for over half their cost after trade unions issued a seven-day strike notice to force implementation of a 30 per cent salary rise awarded by court in 2014.
The Kenya Agricultural and Plantation Workers’ Union (KAPWU) says tea workers will down tools on October 17 paralysing activities at the international firms, which account for 40 per cent of tea produced in the country.
“By increasing the wages by 30 per cent, then it means the wage bill of these companies will go up to 54 per cent; this will obviously subject us to losses,” said Apollo Kiarii, Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA) chief executive officer.
Mr Kiarii says the move by KAPWU is ill timed and will affect the growers at a time the sector is trying to recover from losses occasioned by drought.
KAPWU secretary-general Francis Atwoli says plantations have refused to honour the directive reached by Labour Court and frustrated talks on the matter.
“Since 2014, tea workers have seen no wage increases apart from the 15 per cent that the employer decided to award, even though the court had ordered 30 per cent, we want that court ruling to be fully implemented failure to which the strike starts on October 17,” said Mt Atwoli.
Mr Kiarii also noted that the matter is still in Court of Appeal, saying it is wrong for the union to call for a strike before a ruling is made.
“We are waiting for the ruling of the court anytime from now and the union should suspend the strike until the ruling is made,” he said.
KTGA successfully appealed the ruling of the Labour Court last year stalling the wage increase following a stay order.