Saying he had worked hard for them in his first term in office, the President added that aside from increasing the minimum wage, which now stands at Sh10,955, the non-taxable bonuses and overtime would also increase to Sh100,000.
“We know that for two straight years, we have not increased the minimum wage. So, after consultation with key stakeholders, I have directed that the minimum wage be increased by 18 per cent,” he said during the Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park.
In a speech in which he sought to extol his government’s virtues, the President said he had looked after the affairs of the workers and asked them to give him a second term in office “to keep up the good work”.
“We want to continue doing these things. Give us the opportunity to continue with the good work,” President Kenyatta told hundreds of workers in Nairobi.
Mr Francis Atwoli, the fiery secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), had on Sunday demanded a 22 per cent pay increase, citing high cost of living.
COST OF LIVING
Today was President Kenyatta’s third time to grace the Labour Day celebrations in his tenure, having skipped the event last year and in 2014.
Coming at a time when the price of a 2kg packet of maize flour is at Sh125, a half-litre packet of milk at Sh65, and a 2kg packet of sugar at Sh380, the President sought to convince ordinary Kenyans that the government is addressing their plight.
The huge crowd shouted “unga, unga” each time someone rose to speak.
The President did not touch on the subject, only saying he understood the workers’ plight.
“I am aware the workers in the lower income bracket are struggling to afford basic necessities. It is not fair that they should be taxed heavily,” he said.
And declined to read the whole written speech, only rushing to the minimum wage increase and details of what his government had done.
He had just started reading the speech when he remarked: “Hii kitu ni mrefu!” (this speech is too long!), to the amusement of the crowd that had braved a morning drizzle to attend the event.
He termed his infrastructure agenda — the standard gauge railway, roads, and the Sh40 billion Konza City — as the drivers of employment creation.
“Konza will generate at least 16,000 direct jobs while under construction and over 200,000 upon completion.
“We have followed this with a grant for the establishment of a post-graduate university at Konza — the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
“It will help produce the highly qualified scientists and engineers who will transform our economy,” he said.
On job creation, President Kenyatta said wage employment grew by 11 per cent in the past year, adding that more jobs are on the way.
He announced the creation of the Kenya Labour Market Information System, which he said would be a one-stop shop for finding and advertising work.
The President extended a freeze on recruitment of domestic workers by Middle East countries, until the completion of a policy on how they should be protected, saying a body had been formed to approve all foreign employment agencies.
Earlier, Mr Atwoli had called for the cancellation of “outsourcing” of Kenyan labour to the Middle East.
“I strongly urge every Kenyan going abroad to use the approved agencies. You should also make sure that you register at the Kenyan Embassy serving the foreign country you are in,” President Kenyatta advised.
The requirement for clothes manufacturing companies to sell at least 20 per cent of their wares in Kenya, while exporting the rest, will soon be increased to 40 per cent, he said.
“We have a situation where people make clothes here in Kenya, put them on a boat and sell them abroad.
“And when those people are finished with them, they are put in a boat and sent back to us as second-hand.
“We want to wear new clothes, not second hand,” he said, adding that over 150,000 Kenyans bought new clothes in an open market of the garment manufacturers this year.
Deputy President William Ruto, on the other hand, accused the opposition National Super Alliance of only being interested in sharing power and not creating opportunities for Kenyans.
“As we head to the elections, we must be reminded that power is not just for the elite to share. It is for the empowerment of every citizen of Kenya. It is for the creation of jobs,” he said.