workers’ strike: Why the Kenya government will not pay them
The sight of hundreds of thousands of teachers and lecturers dancing and singing in the streets has been magnified by the raucous street extravaganzas by doctors and nurses in what has become the face of Kenya workers’ strike.
A cabinet subcommittee was quickly formed yesterday after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki to resolve an impasse between the government and the striking workers. It has been ten days since the teachers’ strike started and poor children who attend public schools are being disadvantaged as compared to their counterparts in private schools. Poor Kenyans are suffering from the lack of health care services and the situation should be alarming to the leaders and ordinary Kenyans alike. The workers’ strike has to come to an end sooner rather than later!
So why does the government seem to falter in giving a clear indication as to what should be done to restore normalcy to the economy which is under threat of being slowed down by the workers strikes? Looking closely, negotiating salary increments for both employers and employees has never been as easy as it might seem.
The positive side of the whole story from the strikers’ view is that they don’t have to wake up early anymore for the time being to go to work and can instead sleep late or participate in other personal activities.
As a matter of fact, it will be a great plus for them if their wage demands are improved as a result and therefore make them glad that at the end of the month there will be more money to spend. But such a happy ending may be short lived because of the domino effect on the economy. Here’s why the workers’ strike might lead to this unintended eventuality:
Increasing salaries will cause inflation
The result of raising the wages might have the exact opposite effect because when the cost of labor goes up, the cost of goods and services will increase. At the end of the day, the levels of inflation become worse and it all goes back to the same rut of insufficient wages.
When inflation bites in the economy and salaries remain the same, the poor become increasingly desperate and the middle class revert to barely scraping by. The question of class disparity worsens as the poor continue reeling from the effects which bear down on them more than anyone else.
Increased level of joblessness
The levels of joblessness will also increase in the event that the cost of sustaining the current labor pool is already too high. It all has to do with the bottom line of the company and the cost of incurring huge recurrent expenditures for the government.
Management always seeks the cheapest labor that is able to undertake the heaviest work possible; that is why cheap labor is normally one of the biggest incentives to investment opportunity. China’s economic boom has largely been informed by the vibrant manufacturing sector which benefits from available cheap labor.
If the government strains to afford the new wages, creation of new jobs takes a hit since labor costs become too high and unsustainable especially for a weak economy. The levels of joblessness will consequently go up as attention shifts to ways of cutting costs of operation.
Increasing salaries does not tackle organizational injustice
The cabinet has urged all the groups involved in the workers’ strike to consult with the salaries and remuneration commission in order to promote impartiality among civil servants pay even as the negotiations continue. This speaks of justice in the work place, which relates to disparity in pay between employees and the criteria for promotions.
A harmonized system of remuneration as opposed to pay increment, will lead to better delivery from staff because of increased morale due to the heightened sense of self worth and dignity.
Reducing the injustice in the workplace as relates to commensurate pay, will lead to a lessened gap between the high earners and the low income earners hence defusing class wars in society. Ensuring a decent income for all the staffers will in turn ensure a decent standard of living for the majority and therefore reduce on the need to have conflict.
A recent global talent survey by Deloitte which was published on Business News Daily yesterday found that the top reasons people seek new employment are primarily non-financial, including:
- Lack of career progress
- New opportunities in the market
- Dissatisfaction with a manager or supervisor
- Lack of challenge in the job
However, the research goes on to show that the top retention incentives for employees are primarily financial:
- Additional bonuses or financial incentives
- Promotion/job advancement
- Additional compensation
As negotiations on the workers’ strike in Kenya continue, someone should think of tackling the matter in a broader sense away from the current banter of simply putting up “a mother of all strikes.”