The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between FKE, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and the Central Organization of Trade Unions on 20 April 2020 took partial stock of the deliberations of the Rapid Tripartite Response Team convened under the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection. It provided a broader framework for cooperation and consultation between employers and employees.
Kenyan social partners agreed on measures related to the reporting of persons affected by Covid-19, the strengthening of social dialogue practices, government interventions, the adoption of health and safety guidelines and facilities for migrant workers’ employment permits.
With regards to dialogue, “social partners at the tripartite level are committed to ensuring harmonious labour relations in the country through social dialogue during the Covid-19 pandemic”. Social dialogue means the possibility to agree on the terms and conditions of telework; the adoption of measures of resilience, for instance, by suspending the negotiation of new Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), by not renegotiating CBAs, by changing the terms of actual CBAs or by means of wage freeze; the active participation into planning, implementing and monitoring measures for recovery. Worth of note: “The MoU gives employers freedom to reopen discussions with their employees or trade unions on challenges facing them during the pandemic period and to consider painful but necessary measures to avoid job losses and cushion enterprises from collapse. It provides a framework for consultations and cooperation to enhance fairness and avoidance of arbitrary ways of managing employer – employee relations during this pandemic period”.
On the Government’s intervention, it is indicated that fiscal and monetary stimulus packages will be implemented as well as the retention of the Minimum Wage as per legal Notice 2, Regulation of Wages (General Amendment) Order 2018.
Jacqueline Mugo, FKE Executive Director, who signed the agreement, positively presented the MOU through a dedicated Webinar for KFE members as “a voluntary mechanism for managing industrial relations during these turbulent times”. She explained: “FKE prepared a draft MoU as a response to the mounting pressure on employers to retain all employees during the pandemic, despite the fact that many employers found themselves with no option but to close their enterprises. The MoU allowed social partners at different levels to find the best solutions for their needs”. “These two months of the MoU proved its usefulness, since various sectors such as the hospitality industry, the tea sector and the agriculture used it to hold bipartite consultations and negotiations on the options available to them and agreed on various measures such as sending employees on unpaid leave, salary reduction and suspension of CBA negotiations during the Covid-19 pandemic. In other sectors, such as the aviation, there are still challenges to the proper operation of the MoU”, she continued.