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Employers’ lobby group FKE tells Chinese firms to learn Kenya Labor Laws to avoid conflict

by Milicent Atieno
chinese fke kenya china

Kenya is open to business; we are not particularly looking East over the West or the reverse. As long as you want to invest locally the door is wide open; provided you don’t come with conditions.

That has been the message by the current head of state and his predecessor to the world. A move that has seen China (virtually the only industrialized country which invests in other countries with a no-interference-policy) make inroads across the business landscape in Kenya that can only be dreamt about Western countries.

The good thing about China is that they invest in a country as long as the project(s) is viable. They don’t interfere with a country’s internal affairs. There’s a sick joke people say locally about China; you could be in the middle of a war as a country massacring one another, and the government of the day could approach the Chinese companies for weapons, and the rebels could also approach the same companies for firearms. The Chinese companies will come through with both contracts.

The country is always open for business, and you it’s a well-known fact it has been the world’s center for outsourcing jobs. That is primarily because setting up the industry and running it is comparatively cheaper than in most industrialized countries. There are allegations that the cost of labor is also cheaper, thus driving down the general cost of production.

Talking about Chinese labor; there are also allegations that some industries employment relationship with their workers is sub-standard. Workers work for long hours but don’t have commensurate pay.

Now that Kenya and most other African countries have opened their doors wide open to Chinese companies to set up shops locally. Some companies have brought everything from China to Africa; including the business thrift of driving down the cost of production, maximizing the number of units produced per unit time, and maximizing the profit margin.

That has led to many Kenyan employees working in Chinese companies complaining of poor pay, poor benefits, and wrongful dismissal. The Kenya employer’s body – Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE) – voiced its concern during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between FKE and the Kenya Overseas Chinese Association (Koca) on Friday.

From the few Chinese employers we have directly interacted with over the past years, it has been evident that the majority of Chinese companies in Kenya are not familiar with the Kenyan labor law, making it easy to violate the law without knowing it,” said Jacqueline Mugo, the Executive Director of FKE.

[The] most common types of labor disputes cases are salaries below-minimum-wage standards and unfair termination.”

Other than payment and process of dismissal, other conflicts arise from differences in language, religion, and cultural values; they lead to misunderstanding between Chinese employers and their local employees.

Due to the lack of knowledge of local labor laws and the understanding of the local staff, disputes between Chinese employers and local employees occur a lot.

[The] FKE’s advice is that Chinese companies should pay attention to the minimum wage, trade unions, dismissal procedures, holidays, housing, medical care and other benefits.”

There is need for FKE and Chinese companies to cooperate and sync with one another to mitigate the numerous incidences of conflicts between local employees and their Chinese employers.

We are here to offer Chinese organizations more information on immigration laws in Kenya, specifically on work permits.

[We] also guide them into understanding the different forms of employment contracts we have in Kenya to enable Chinese companies working in Kenya made informed decisions when recruiting locals and expatriates in businesses and how to acquire the right work permits for non-Kenyans, and give the right employment contracts to avoid labor-related disputes in your enterprises.

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