Cotu backs calls for transfer of tea multinationals to counties

Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli. file photo | nmg
Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli. file photo | nmg 

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) has backed calls to have the management of multinational tea firms handed over to county governments.

Cotu Secretary General, Francis Atwoli, said the union's position stems from the tea companies' alleged mistreatment of local workers.

“Just like in Nyanza and Western Kenya where the sugarcane plantations are now under county governments, we are going to push them out of the plantations especially those in Nandi, Kericho and Sotik....We are having problems with Unilever and James Finlay who want to lower the wages by 5 and 6 per cent and we want to call on the government through the Ministry of Labour to tame them,” said Mr Atwoli.

He said ownership by devolved units will ensure that the farms are 100 per cent African-owned.

While referring to the recent move by the multinationals to mechanise tea picking, Mr Atwoli vowed to fight the switch and ensure that labourers get justice.

“They want to render workers redundant without involving the union. If they continue with the trend, we shall join the locals in Kericho to demand for the land to be managed by county government,” he said.

Mr Atwoli spoke in Nakuru Wednesday while signing a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with Kenya Tea Packers (Ketepa) for 2018/2019.

The company has increased workers' salaries by 20 per cent for the two years at 10 per cent for each year.

“The CBA that was being reviewed for 2016/2017 but because of challenges in the agricultural sector and the political year it was agreed 20 percent be applied for in the 2018-2019 CBA,” said the COTU boss.

Beneficiaries of the pay increment include messengers, tea packers and artisans.

In the CBA, workers earning Sh25,000 will now earn Sh 30,000 while those earning Sh17,000 will take home Sh21,000. Artisans who are union members earning Sh66,000 will now earn Sh80,000.

Mr Atwoli challenged other tea companies to centre workers’ interests and provide better working conditions.

Other terms reviewed in the CBA include annual leave, regulation of working hours and medical allowances.