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Kenya unions support proposals for unemployment insurance fund

22 July, 2021IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Kenya, which organize in the textile and garment, engineering and auto manufacturing, oil and gas, and other manufacturing sectors, welcome proposals by the government to set up an unemployment insurance fund for retrenched workers or those who resign on medical grounds.

The proposed fund, which will become operational in 2022, will also benefit workers who have lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Kenya Bureau of Statistics over 1.7 million jobs were lost at the beginning of the pandemic last year.

The fund, which will be under the department of social protection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, will pay workers part of their wages for up to six months in the event of retrenchment. Kenya is also implementing cash transfer schemes for poverty alleviation.

According to reports, the fund will be like South Africa’s Covid-19 Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) which has so far paid over $4 billion to workers whose jobs were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. TERS is part of the Unemployment Insurance Fund in which workers and employers contribute. Workers can claim benefits from the fund when they lose jobs. In addition to UIF, South Africa provides universal old age and disability pensions, and child grants.

Social protection policies benefit workers who in most cases provide not only for their own families but for relatives as well. Social protection, which includes income security, has been identified as one of the strategies to attain the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Rose Omamo, Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metalworkers general secretary says:

“Unions have long fought for income security and unemployment benefits for retrenched workers. We support the setting up of the unemployment insurance fund and will continue to engage the government in the negotiations towards the launch of the fund. We have made demands for such schemes through collective bargaining and in social dialogues platforms that we are involved in as labour.”

 “Income security is important in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that has caused massive job losses. Millions of workers have lost jobs in Kenya and other African countries. With limited income security because of low wages and inadequate basic healthcare, most of the workers are forced into poverty as they fail to provide for their livelihoods. In this respect, the proposals to introduce an unemployment fund will provide some much-needed income security to the retrenched workers,” says Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub Saharan Africa.

IndustriALL affiliates in Kenya are the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metalworkers, Kenya Engineering Workers Union, Kenya Glass Workers Union, Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union, Kenya Shoe and Leather Workers Union, Kenya Union of Hair and Beauty Workers, Tailors and Textile Workers Union.