article courtesy Tony Gitonga (the Standard Newspaper)
The process of declaring thousands of horticulture workers redundant due to the current crisis caused by Covid-19 has started. Kenya's 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.“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 (approx 70 million euro), with the figures rising by the day.“Some farmers involved in the 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.
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.