Economy

Kenya to finalise pay review pacts with three Middle East states

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MPs during a session at Parliament chambers. PHOTO | FILE

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Summary

  • Kenya will conclude a review of bilateral labour agreements (BLAs) with three Middle East countries by December for handling migrant workers’ pay, welfare and dispute resolution.
  • The National Employment Agency (NEA) told Parliament it would review BLAs with Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia from August.
  • The BLAs will address confiscation of travel documents by employers, restrictions, minimum pay, dispute resolution and contract substitution — replacing agreed pacts with harsh conditions.

Kenya will conclude a review of bilateral labour agreements (BLAs) with three Middle East countries by December for handling migrant workers’ pay, welfare and dispute resolution.

The National Employment Agency (NEA) told Parliament it would review BLAs with Qatar, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia from August.

The BLAs will address confiscation of travel documents by employers, restrictions, minimum pay, dispute resolution and contract substitution — replacing agreed pacts with harsh conditions.

“Between August and December 2021, we will review bilateral labour agreements with Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia to enhance protection of Kenyan migrants,” said NEA director-general Edith Okoki.

This comes amid revelations that Kenya recorded 93 deaths in the past three years from Kenyans working in the Middle East.

Last week, Labour Cabinet secretary Simon Chelugui, failed to provide a detailed breakdown of areas where the 93 victims were buried in the country.

The Ministry of Labour data shows 87,784 Kenyans were facilitated for employment to the Gulf region, a majority of them ending up in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain.

The officials appeared before Senate’s Committee on Labour and Social Welfare to explain circumstances surrounding the death of Melvin Kang’ereha — a young woman that died in a Saudi prison where she was detained for threatening to kill her employer.

Nominated MP Godfrey Otsotsi promised to table video and audio recordings of the woman pleading with her employer and recruitment agency United Manpower Services Limited to return her to Kenya. He said the recruiting agent refused to hear the pleas of the Kenyan worker after the Saudi employer mistreated and tortured her including denying her meals.

Before taking up foreign employment, Kenya migrant workers are processed by the State agency and their contracts are attested by the office of the Labour Commissioner.

The NEA said it would review regulations of private employment agencies to enhance ethical recruitment and increase accountability.

The new regulations will among other things address issues of capital base, responsibilities of the recruitment agencies during the labour migration cycle and code of conduct.