Kenya Public-Service Union Starts as Government Plans Wage Curbs

Kenyan public-service workers formed a new umbrella labor union as the East African nation’s government prepares to curb its wage bill.

The Federation of Public Service Trade Unions of Kenya, or PASETU-K, which formally began operating today, includes unions for civil servants, teachers, university staff and dock workers, Chairman Tom Odege said at a ceremony in the capital, Nairobi. It is the second umbrella union for public workers in the country, along with the 50-year-old Central Organization of Trade Unions Kenya, known as COTU, that was established after Kenya’s independence from Britain in 1963.

The government is trying to reduce the amount it spends paying public workers from 55 percent of annual revenue, a figure that may rise to 64 percent of government income if left unchecked, Deputy Vice President William Ruto said on March 10.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto last month agreed to a 20 percent pay cut and the wages of cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries have been reduced by 10 percent as part of austerity measures to rein in spending.

“Let me disabuse the conspiracy theory that PASETU-K is a government project as alleged by COTU,” Labor Secretary Kazungu Kambi said at the ceremony. “PASETU-K is a consequence of a new constitutional disposition that we passed recently that allows people to form trade unions.”

Kenya enacted a new constitution in 2010.

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