, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 1 – Crowds walked out on Labour Minister John Munyes minutes after he announced meager wage increments at the Labour Day celebrations on Friday.
Mr Munyes had read a speech on behalf of President Mwai Kibaki in which the Head of State had ordered that the minimum wage be increased to Sh3,270 up from Sh2,930. The impatient crowd had forced the Minister to cut short the written speech. However on hearing the figures read out by Mr Munyes they started leaving the venue.
“Ladies and gentlemen I would want to say a few words…….,” he said in his unsuccessful pleas. “Okay then the meeting is closed.”
This was a replay of last year’s celebrations in which the public walked out on President Kibaki who had announced that the government would not review the salaries owing to the effects of post election violence of early last year. Although Mr Munyes later formed a committee to look into new minimum wage proposals nothing has been heard of it since then.
In his Friday directive the Head of State ordered reviews in the agriculture and local authorities sectors.
“Agricultural wages category will rise to Sh3, 043 while for the general wages category the new minimum wages will be Sh6,130. All municipalities will get Sh5,655,” he said.
Neither the President nor Prime Minister Raila Odinga graced Friday’s celebrations. Hopes that Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka would represent the Head of State were dashed as he too failed to turn up.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary General Francis Atwoli had whipped up emotions in the celebrations and maintained that ‘the workers would not leave the venue without a pay increase.’
Mr Atwoli said that the government should come up with an Income and Wages policy as a framework to counter the inequalities in the remuneration of workers.
“We have cried time and again and disagreed with the employers because policies are lacking. Government must craft the policy to end this crying, praying and coming here begging every year and sometimes you are given nothing.”
Mr Atwoli once again lashed at the government for the continued privatisation of public companies and lands. He said that the practice does not benefit the country as most workers continue to lose their jobs after the privatisation.
“Mr Minister, take our message to whoever is concerned in no uncertain terms,” he said.
Mr Atwoli once again revisited the issue of taxation of MPs’ allowances and maintained that it was immoral for the legislators to abdicate this responsibility.