, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 1 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has increased the minimum wage by 14 percent to Sh13, 674 up from Sh11, 995, to be implemented with immediate effect.
Kenyatta said the pay hike was geared to address the needs of the lowest paid workers and cost of living while ensuring a conducive environment for investment and job creation.
The president said the increase would go hand in hand with his government’s efforts to improve the standard of living; the first step towards which is the proposed 2013/2014 budget which if passed will see the prices of basic commodities decrease.
“In our budget proposals submitted to Parliament yesterday (Tuesday), Kenyans will notice deliberate and decisive strategies of my government to significantly reduce the cost of basic commodities such as food and medicine,” Kenyatta said in his first Labour Day speech as President.
The increased mechanisation of food production, Deputy President William Ruto said, would also lead to an improved standard of living.
The President’s increase of the minimum wage was not welcomed by the Federation of Kenya Employers who through their Chairman Erastus Mwongera had called on Kenyatta to break the tradition.
“Continued annual review of minimum wages amounts to over compensation of labour at the cost of capital and the consumer,” Mwongera said during the national Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park.
Mwongera asked the President to institute any such increments, if at all, in the third quarter of the financial year, “It will give employers time to budget and implement the reviewed wages at the start of the new year.”
Speaking after Mwongera, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General, Francis Atwoli, accused the employers of duplicity.
“Workers contribute greatly to this economy but when they ask for higher pay employers automatically say there is no money but they make much more than what they reveal to the Kenya Revenue Authority,” Atwoli said.
The President identified youth unemployment as one of the greatest challenges facing the country today and promised that jobs that can be done by Kenyans will be limited to Kenyans.
He also pledged that his government will work with employers to ensure that those leaving school to join the work force have relevant skills.
In his speech, the President sought to assure Kenyans who seek jobs abroad that their rights will be safeguarded and encouraged Kenyans abroad to invest back home.
The President also urged Parliament to push through the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Bill which he said will boost investment.
“By using the funds raised from the pension contributions of millions of Kenyans, NSSF can invest in the housing, roads and infrastructure that our nation so desperately needs,” Kenyatta explained.
Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero in turn asked the President to ensure all legislation surrounding devolution is fully implemented to reduce what he termed as the heavy, “human traffic,” in Nairobi.