Covid-19 crisis: Cotu okays sacking of 50,000 farm workers without pay

A worker at Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha collects ready roses for dumping in a compost yard due to lack of market.

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The process of declaring thousands of horticulture workers redundant due to the current crisis caused by Covid-19 has started.

The Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) and Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) in a joint exercise, will send an estimated 50,000 workers home without salaries, as the number of those affected by the pandemic globally continues to rise.

Flower farm workers will be the most affected after the total collapse of the sector that employs more than 150,000 workers directly.

The collapse of the Dutch auction, which accounted for 70 per cent of flower exports, and the lockdown in Europe has played a major part in the current crisis.

According to the AEA boss Wesley Siele, they had a meeting with Cotu in which it was agreed that the workers would be sent home due to the current crisis.

He noted that already, seven farms had indefinitely suspended their operations and sent all their workers home.

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“We have signed an agreement with Cotu to send an estimated 50,000 workers home without salaries as we continue to monitor the situation,” he said.

Siele noted that since the country recorded the first case leading to flight cancellations, the sector has lost Sh8 billion, with the figures rising by the day.

Workers at Maridadi flower farm in Naivasha collect ready roses for dumping in a compost yard due to lack of market.

“Some farmers involved in export of fresh produce are still in operation despite a challenge in high freight charges but those involved in flower growing face a total shutdown,” he said.

He called on the government to support farmers involved in production of fresh produce by zero-rating farm inputs like fertilisers and chemicals.

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Food security

“We need to address the issue of food security in the coming months by supporting farmers at this planting season as failure to do so will lead to food shortage in the future,” he said.

Siele expressed the association’s concern that two weeks after the president ordered for VAT refunds, the directive had not been effected.

On his part, Kenya Export, Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union Secretary-General David Omulama called for support to hundreds of the affected workers.

Mr Omulama noted that in Naivasha, all the over 50 flower farms had sent nearly all their staff home, meaning an economic crisis for the lakeside town and families.

 


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