Flower growers have opposed a proposed law seeking to raise the wages of farm workers by 166 per cent.
The industry regulator, Kenya Flower Council (KFC), has sought the backing of the Federation of Kenya Employers and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance to lobby Parliament out of creating a subsidiary legislation that would control minimum wages.
The Labour Institutions (Amendment Bill) 2011 — a private member’s Bill sponsored by Naivasha MP John Mututho — seeks to amend Section 47 of Labour Institutions Act 2007, raising flower workers’ wages from Sh3,765 per month to Sh10,050.
The section allows the Labour minister to provide wage guidelines to different sectors of the economy, usually done once on Labour Day.
“Wage setting is a government policy issue, not a responsibility of the legislature,” KFC said in a statement, adding changing the status quo may violate article 41(5) of the constitution, which guarantees workers and employers the right to collective bargain agreement.
As of July 2011, KFC had a membership of 60 flower-growing and exporting firms running 70 farms in different parts of the country. This is about 60 per cent of the flowers exports.
The flower farms say they are already spending between 30 to 50 per cent of their income on salaries and wages beside substantial investment in staff welfare such as transport, housing, child care and medication. [See related: Flower firms strive to shed off old image with community projects]
“If the proposed Bill were to pass, 50 to 60 per cent of our incomes would go into wages and salaries depending on the nature and character of the farm,” adds KFC’s statement.