Social Dialogue Intensifies through Debates

By Jane Masta COTU, manager and Gentrix Juma, FKE, manager


The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) and the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) carry out the WageIndicator project in Kenya. The project involves collection, analysis and dissemination of online material on minimum wages, collective bargaining agreements, labor laws and career tips. The project enables access to online information on real wages and labor laws for individual countries and across different countries.  Information on minimum wages is updated continuously. The information on salaries by industry and profession is also updated continuously as more questionnaires are filled.


The projects endeavor to realize the following objectives:

  • Gathers information on real wage data directly at the source i.e. employees (formal or informal), and small entrepreneurs (formal or informal);
  • Provide comparable real wage information instantly, in the region or if needed worldwide;
  • Facilitate forums for stakeholders (employees, employers, governments and organizations of informal workers) to hold social dialogue debates;
  • Facilitate access to online material on labour laws, collective bargaining agreements, compliance forms and minimum wages through interactive websites;
  • Enable social partners to undertake decent work checks by comparing the national data with the relevant ILO’s Decent work clauses;
  • Raise awareness amongst stakeholders, multi-stakeholder debates and public media campaigns.


Project Progress

  • Two Kenyan websites: and were developed and are continuously updated by the employers and workers organizations;
  • Offline survey was carried out in 2011; the report was prepared and disseminated. The report gives a detailed outline on remuneration within the different informal sectors;
  • An online compliance platform to encourage conformity with the nation's policies, laws and regulations, that are labor related;
  • The marketing of the two websites is also jointly done by FKE and COTU using different strategies, notably: on institutional websites, during debates, stakeholders forums, training programs, workshops, print and digital media, and distribution of flyers and posters;
  • The informal sector and domestic workers have been involved in this project through debates and are therefore aware on how to access online material on minimum wages, labor laws, collective bargaining agreements and even career tips;
  • 5 stakeholder forums (3 in 2014 and 2 in 2015) have been carried out, enabling discussion on various emerging issues affecting employment and workplace environment.
  • So far 16 debates have been conducted comprising of different sectors; 
  • Several inquiries seeking clarifications and legal interpretation have been received from a number of employees and employers who have visited the websites and addressed accordingly. This include such questions as:

Calculation of terminal benefits

Computation of leave

Calculation of pension

Sectoral minimum wages

Social Dialogue through Debates

The debates were organised for different sectors and in different regions to discuss unique and sector specific challenges and solutions. The Decent Work items were debated during the meetings with workers’, employers’ legal officers and informal sector workers. The debates were guided by the Decent Work check list as an outline tool which is also available on line. The tool elaborates the UN Decent Work Agenda and discusses the following, among others:

  • Work and wages
  • Annual leave and working on weekly and public holidays
  • Employment conditions
  • Family responsibilities
  • Maternity at work
  • Health and safety
  • Work and sickness
  • Social security
  • Fair treatment at work
  • Children at work
  • Forced labor
  • Trade union rights


Observations from the Debates

  • A good number of workers’ and employers are largely unaware of the relevant labour laws governing their mutual relationship;
  • Statutory minimum wages are not implemented in some formal sectors and most informal sectors due to lack of capacity of the Ministry of Labour to carry out labour inspections;
  • Many working people, especially in the informal sectors and the lower cadre earners in the formal sectors, earn wages that are substantially below the living wages. Therefore they are unable to make ends meet;
  • The informal economy is very huge in Kenya - contributing 80.5% of jobs created. However, they are unable to contribute the high amount required for social security.
  • There is lack of employment security for working women especially on maternity protection in the EPZ. Lack of health and safety measures at the workplaces is common. Even where the employer has measures in place, workers have insufficient information on utilization of security, health and safety measures;
  • Lack of pay equity within similar sectors and regions;
  • Most participants had very little knowledge of their basic rights.


Lessons Learned

  • There is a need for more awareness of basic labor rights, labor laws and minimum wages;
  • There is a need for unions and the Ministry of Labor to ensure that employers are  paying the statutory minimum wage, through continuous labor inspections;
  • There is a need for employers to allow workers to join a union of their choice to ensure harmony at the workplace and observance of basic workers’  rights;
  • There is a need for continuous dialogue among social partners to promote industrial peace and harmony at the workplace.


Social Dialogue through Stakeholder Forums

The Federation of Kenya Employers held forums in these regions: Nairobi, Mombasa (coast region), Kisumu (Western region) and Nakuru (Rift valley region). In 2014 the issue of discussion was wage determination and emerging employment issues, while in 2015 the issue of discussion was linking productivity to pay in CBA negotiations. Its objective was to discuss emerging labor issues affecting the business environment in order to offer more clarity on areas that are not well understood by employers. The chairman’s dinner was held as a high level event targeting delegates from FKE partners and stakeholders, to strengthen tripartism and a social dialogue as well as raising awareness and enhancing engagement amongst stakeholders in the future.

Intended Outcomes

  • Positive contribution to industrial relations;
  • Advocacy platform to discuss workplace relations between employers and workers;
  • Strengthened social dialogue among partners.


The Way Forward

To fully realise the objectives of the Wageindicator programs, the social partners in Kenya will continue to:

  • Market the websites to draw traffic to online access on information on statutory minimum wages, labor laws and collective bargaining agreements;
  • Market the online salary survey;
  • Hold more debates in different regions to discuss sector specific challenges and solutions;
  • Provide up to date data and information on statutory minimum wages, labor laws and collective bargaining agreements.

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