Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kenya: Resolve Tea Machines Row Says Daily Nation

Kenya Daily Nation

Resolve tea machines row

Posted Sunday, October 24 2010 at 20:25

The hardening of positions in the standoff between employers and trade unions over the introduction of leaf plucking machines cannot be good for the tea sector, which recorded an impressive performance this year.

Propped up by the Federation of Kenya Employers, the multinational and local tea companies argue that the mechanisation of green tea plucking is not only economical but also efficient. However, trade unions fear huge job losses.

We consider this standoff unnecessary as there is clearly room for confluence. The employers and trade unionists should stop public spats and agree to talk to each other without preconditions.

The unions do not demand the wholesale ban of mechanisation, but insist on an earlier agreement putting a cap on the number of machines allowed.

Ultimately, the stakeholders must strike a fine balance between uptake of technology and the workers’ welfare. Fears about the inevitable layoffs could be addressed by a viable send-off package.

Even though the Tea Board of Kenya says the strike by about 80,000 workers has not affected auction prices and export volumes, prolonged industrial action may derail projected earnings.

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