The government has increased the minimum wage by 12 per cent, ending a two-year spell of no good news for the country’s lowest paid workers.
This comes after a campaign from the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) for an increase of 20 per cent in the weeks leading up to Labour Day.
Cotu Secretary General Mr Francis Atwoli urged the government to help protect the statutory minimum wage and workers who fall under this category.
The gazetted monthly average minimum wage in urban areas, excluding housing allowance, is between Sh12,136 (all other towns) and Sh15,357 (Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu). The average pay set for the agricultural industry, however, is much lower at Sh6,054 a month, with unskilled workers getting Sh4,854.
The latest changes raise average minimum wages in the agricultural industry to Sh6,780, with unskilled labourers — the lowest paid — getting Sh5,436.
Average minimum wages in urban areas go up to between Sh13,592 and Sh17,199.
“The government should endeavour to improve workers’ welfare by increasing the minimum wage annually,” Mr Atwoli said. The increase often has a knock on effect on the wages of employees whose income is above the legal minimum.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the increase during this year’s Labour Day celebrations in Nairobi saying increments should reflect the effort workers make in improving the economy.
“We have done the increment in relation to the cost of living and the level of productivity experienced in the past couple of years,” he said.
The last increment was in 2013, about two months after the president got into office, and saw the minimum wage go up 14 per cent.
Inflation was touted as the biggest factor that occasioned calls for an increment, with the Cotu secretary general saying the cost of living called for increased earnings to cushion the lowest earning workers.
President Kenyatta, however, said increased pay should not just be pegged on the cost of living but also on the level of workers productivity.
The occasion, which also marked Cotu’s 50th anniversary, was also addressed by acting Labour Cabinet secretary Raychelle Omamo, who asked the labour movement to conduct dialogue with employers and government respectfully.
Other speakers included Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero and Federation of Kenya Employers Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo.