By Mwakwaya Raymond
The government has dismissed calls by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli for suspension of licenses of immigration recruiting agencies that take Kenyans to work in the Middle East.
Labour CS Simon Chelugui says suggestions by Mr Atwoli are economically impractical and unrealistic.
Chelugui asserted that currently Kenya has over four million of its citizens in the diaspora who send back Kshs 350 billion annually.
He therefore said the idea of license suspension is out of the question.
When speaking at a national labour board meeting (NLB) in Mombasa, Atwoli had said Kenyans are subjected to modern slavery in the middle East claiming that labour laws are ineffective.
Recruiting agencies have earned blame and public resentment for subjecting Kenyans to human rights violation once they land to the gulf countries.
The COTU leader had said: “People who hire these Kenyans are not employers, they are equivalent to hawkers here, yet they pretend to be looking for jobs for our people…we must stop this madness.”
“The government of Kenya should not trade with unscrupulous agencies instead it should be undertaking this matter on a government to government policy and stop leading Kenyans to these arrogant agencies,” Mr Atwoli had further said.
He argued that the labour ministry should be warning Kenyans not to go to Saudi Arabia and other middle East countries, as the exodus amount to modern slavery.
However, CS Chelugui stated that he will be heading to Saudi to review the labour agreements on domestic workers so as to avert any form of abuse of workers.
“We produce 1.4 million graduates every year and they all cannot be accommodated in the job market, the government has to take consideration of that and we also recognize the problem we have is localized to few countries.
Chelugui said the government is banking on amendments to the labour migration laws that it hopes will bring sanity in the sector.
He said the ministry is strategizing on a national welfare fund to cater for labor related issues should it happen in future.
“There is need for a Migrants workers fund so that In case there is any case affecting our foreign workers, they can be helped out. We will ask them to contribute so that it can help them upon returning to the country,” said Chelugui.
Atwoli insisted that amendment of the labour institutions act should empower the National Labour Board to deal with the crisis and the errant labour agencies.
Atwoli also challenged the government to look into post Covid 19 incentives to cushion workers.
“Alot of jobs have been lost and there is need to restrategize because many organizations have so far collapsed “ said Atwoli.
Federation of Kenya employers executive director Jackline Mugo,said the power of NLB should be increased and made semi-autonomous for it to be able to undertake it’s activities independently.
The FKE official called for delinking of NLB from the ministry of labour as well as equipping it with requisite resources.
She said if the Board is empowered going to labour relations court will be the last option.
Mugo also challenged Chelugui to fast track the gazzettement of names nominated to the National social security fund presented to the ministry.
Labour PS Eng Peter Tum said the government is keen to enhancing the activities of NLB by ensuring it’s properly empowered.