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No salary increase on minimum wage workers

In the wake of the covid-19 global pandemic, the weakening of the Kenyan shilling against the American dollar and the war in Ukraine, several countries have been hit with high costs of living, Kenya included.

In Kenya, as the government went on a hiring spree of 50 new Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS) with hefty salaries, government overspending on refurbishing state residences, acquisition of fuel guzzlers worth tens of millions and opening new offices for spouses of top Executive leaders with a budget in the billions amid claims the coffers at the National Treasury are dry, the ordinary citizen continues to be pressed by the runaway high cost of living.

“In full appreciation of the critical contribution of workers to the economy [and] following the recommendation of various stakeholders… we find that there is a compelling case to review the minimum wages so as to cushion our workers against further erosion of their purchasing power, while also guaranteeing the competitiveness of our economy,” said former president Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.

Unlike former president Uhuru Kenyatta who saw to it that low cadre employees received a 12 percent hike in their salaries in 2022 during his Labor Day speech, President William Ruto failed to mention any relief for workers in his 2023 speech.

Salary workers who attended the Labor Day celebrations at the Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi County went home empty handed after President Ruto failed to hand them a salary increment.

Today, fuel prices are at an all time high of Sh 179.30 for petrol and Sh 162 for diesel. Kerosene retails at Sh 145 a liter. Additionally, the price of electricity went up as the amount of tokens sold to prepaid customers went down. These factors were among the reasons given for the steeply hiked cost of food. A packet of maize meal flour that prepares Ugali- the staple food in Kenya- retails at Sh 200 and above in many shops and supermarkets. Cooking oil, salt and gas are also among highly priced household goods that remain unaffordable for many homes including those of civil servants whom the government is also struggling to pay their hefty salaries and allowances as was seen in March 2023.

President Ruto’s Economic Adviser, David Ndii, attributed the delays in paying government employees to the high debt in Kenya, saying Sh 6 out of every Sh 10 collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority was spent on repaying debt.

This increased cost of living is among the pillars of the opposition’s demonstrations led by Raila Odinga. The Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Alliance have been demanding that President Ruto lower the cost of living as he had promised during his presidential campaigns and is yet to work on them beyond the time he promised to get it done.

While President Ruto conceded that he would see to it that the price of gas will be lowered to Sh 300 for every home, the opposition informed him that Kenyans were more interested in the cost of food over cooking gas. While at that, they demanded that the price of the 2kg packet of maize meal be lowered to Sh 100 and not the Sh 150 President Ruto and his government have been telling Kenyans.

Following President Ruto’s Labor Day speech, Raila Odinga called him out for failing to address the needs of workers by increasing their minimum wages. He attributed this to a lack of concern and seriousness on the part of President Ruto and the Kenya Kwanza government.

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