Nandi County Assembly has moved to protect the welfare of workers in multinational tea companies who risk being rendered jobless following the introduction of tea plucking machines.
The tea companies have opted for the plucking machines to cut down on high operational costs.
But to protect the workers, the assembly has passed a motion seeking to introduce new levies aimed at restricting the sacking of workers in large scale tea plantations. The decision to restrict use of tea picking machine was endorsed by the assembly on Tuesday.
The motion was moved by the Kapchorwa Ward Rep John Kebenei and his Kabwareng’ counterpart Jackson Swadi.
“The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) and the Ministry of Health should investigate complaints from workers over the introduction of tea plucking machines,” said Mr Kebenei, adding that the companies were not paying revenues to the county.
Nandi County Assembly Speaker Joshua Kiptoo asked the county government to implement measures which will create more new jobs while protecting existing ones.
“The use of new technology is not an excuse to frustrate and render Kenyans jobless. Workers in the tea industry should not suffer because of machines which are handled by just a few and compromising the quality of tea in the international market,” said Mr Kiptoo.
The MCAs wondered why tea companies were embracing the new technology yet experts have warned that the machines have side effects and have even been banned in other countries.
They demanded that the county government conducts an audit and establish the number of tea plucking machines which have been imported into the county.
“The tea industry employ thousands of tea workers from across Kenya working in Nandi but in the last two years the county has suffered economically due to retrenchments,’’ said speaker Kiptoo.
Tea companies in the county employ about 50,000 workers but in the last two years the multi-nationals have sent home thousands of them following the introduction of the new technology.
“The county government must earn revenue from the tea machines so as to protect locally available jobs,” resolved the assembly.
It is estimated that the introduction of the tea plucking machines will result in the loss of more than one million jobs in the tea industry.