Kenyan Tea Worker Wage Dispute Rolls On

On 29th June, striking Kenyan tea workers were ordered back to work by the Kenyan courts following an appeal lodged by the Kenya Tea Growers Association (KTGA), which represents the Kenya tea producing companies, against the courts previous ruling of a significant wage increase for tea workers.

The tea industry wage negotiations between KTGA and the Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) take place every two years. The current CBA process began in 2014 but remains unresolved over disagreements regarding issues such as rates of pay, gratuity, and annual leave.

The KPAWU argued for a 50% increase in pay to be distributed equally over 2014 and 2015, citing high inflation rates leading to higher living costs. KTGA had recommended a 2% increase per year due to higher costs of production and reduced global tea prices. With negotiations stalling, the matter was taken to court.

The court heard a range of evidence, including information from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics that supported KPAWU’s assertion of increased inflation. In addition, unions from other plantation sectors, such as the Agricultural Employers Association (AEA), had already agreed a 24% increase in wages for 2014 and 2015.

Therefore, on 20th June the court awarded a 15% increase in wages per year for 2014 and 2015. In addition, the following was also awarded:

  1. Retirement shall be at 60 years with the option of voluntary retirement at 55 years
  2. On hours of work there shall be one paid rest day in every seven days of work
  3. Annual leave travelling allowance at 6% above the existing rate
  4. Medical treatment and sick allowance of Ksh 30,000.00
  5. Baggage allowance of Ksh 30,000.00 upon termination of employment
  6. Annual leave shall remain as in the CBA 2012/2013
  7. Gratuity pay shall remain as in the CBA 2012/2013
  8. Parties shall review the 2014/2015 CBA and any antecedent policy so as to accommodate the union members’ right to the day of worship within reasonable limitations

When KTGA members didn’t immediately provide the wage increase, KPAWU instructed tea estate workers to strike until their members were paid in accordance with the court ruling. KTGA have launched an appeal against the ruling and subsequently the courts have ordered tea estate workers to return to work until the appeal is concluded.