Some 20,000 tea pluckers in Konoin constituency have lost their jobs because of mechanisation, area MP Brighton Yegon has said.
Yegon, who is seeking for a statement from Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Florence Bore, said multi-national tea companies retrenched the said workers after introducing tea-plucking machines.
“Could the Cabinet Secretary state the measures that the ministry is putting in place to mitigate the consequences that arise from the mechanisation, which has affected the small and medium sized wages and the overall effect to the economy?” he asked.
The legislator further wants the government to state measures is taken to protect machine handlers from health risks due exposure to monoxide fumes.
Tea multinationals and workers’ union have been at war with each other over the introduction of plucking machines, which players in the industry say would cost more than 50,000 employees their jobs.
The Kenya Plantation and Agriculture Workers Union (KPAWU) has said job redundancies have been declared by major tea firms which have mechanised tea plucking to cut down on production costs.
In early October, some locals in Kericho torched several tea-plucking machines to protest against mechanisation of tea harvesting.
In March, former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya directed Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) to start the implementation of the tea-plucking machines in every zone.
Munya said the move is aimed at improving the quality of tea, reducing harvesting time and safeguarding farmers’ health.
Statistics show that deploying one stand-alone machine can replace 100 workers. One operated by two people does the work of 25 workers.