Updated: Aug 27, 2020
For the first time in the history of Kenya, Labour Day celebrations were conducted not in its usual venue of the stadium, but from State-house. This was because of the ongoing social distancing interventions to help curb the spread of the Corona-virus. However, over a hundred thousand Kenyans marked the celebrations in pain after having lost jobs as companies opt to cut back on their workforce, overwhelmed by the impact of COVID-19 pandemic. A report from the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection indicates the pandemic has already rendered at least 133,657 Kenyans jobless.
Companies began sending employees home in March — days after the first Corona virus case was reported in Kenya, while most of them have joined as the pandemic persisted. . Among the boldest of moves by many companies so far has been to send workers on unpaid leave and slashing salaries. Firms in the flowers, tea, hotels, tourism, aviation and transport sectors were the first to take action. So far, workers in the flower farms are among the hardest hit, where about 80,000 have either been sacked or sent on unpaid leave. This is after the sector lost its market in Europe, when orders were cancelled.
“Only 50 per cent of our nationwide workforce is currently working with the percentage expected to plummet to 25 percent in the coming two or three weeks. If things do not improve, we project employee headcount to drop to 20, 000,” Kenya Flower Council Executive Officer Clement Tulezi said last month, when over 30,000 casuals at flower farms were fired. It was the first bold move by the 150,000-workforce sector in reacting to impacts caused by the pandemic, where also 40,000 permanent staffs were sent home. In the second layoff in May, employees who had been placed on half salaries in April were sent home without pay, with more than 1,000 workers—750 of them from Oserian Ltd in Naivasha — affected.