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International solidarity ends precarious work at Kenya auto plant

31 March, 2021For many years, IndustriALL affiliate the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers (AUKMW), campaigned against the piece rate system at Kenya Vehicle Manufacturers (KVM) which paid workers on an hourly basis. After support from the Volkswagen Works Council, from January 2021 the 42 affected workers have better contracts and are now being paid monthly.

This is welcome news to the workers. For instance, Anisa, who has worked at KVM for 20 years on a piece rate basis says:

“We are delighted that our wages have increased and look forward to longer contracts that will give us job security. Currently we are on monthly contracts. Job security is important to us as it improves our livelihoods and those of the families that we provide for.”

Rose Omamo, AUKMW general secretary says:

“We applaud this move by the KVM management which we consider a victory for the workers. This is an important step in ending precarious working conditions in the automotive sector in Kenya, and we are grateful for the support that we received from our comrades in the Works Council of Volkswagen. This follows up from our engagements in the Sub-Saharan Africa VW network.”

Bernd Osterloh, president of the European and World Group Works Council of Volkswagen AG, says:

“We are pleased that the 42 piece-rate workers at KVM have received a proper contract through our support. This is also a strong achievement of the AUKMW. This success could not have been achieved without the passionate commitment of the colleagues of this trade union. As the World Group Works Council at Volkswagen, we are committed to improving working conditions worldwide, both in our own plants and at our suppliers. An important key for this is our culture of cooperative conflict management. KVM also shows that it takes responsibility for its workforce and cooperates with the union.” 

 Dariusz Dabrowski, secretary general of the European and World Group Works Council of Volkswagen AG, says:

“The cooperation through the Sub-Saharan network, which we have established together with various trade unions in the region, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and IndustriALL, shows through this example an exemplary opportunity for international solidarity. We look forward to continuing this cooperation with our sibling unions in Africa in the future.”

KVM is involved in contract assembly at its Thika plant – about 40km outside Nairobi. It assembles vehicles for VW and other clients, including models from Nissan, Land Rover, Foton and Hyundai. Other manufacturing operations by KVM include bus body building, fabrication, and surface branding. With 35 per cent of the company’s shares, the Government of Kenya is the majority shareholder.