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SPEECH BY THE AEA CHAIRMAN MR. NELSON ROTICH DURING THE FIFTY-SECOND (52ND) ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF THE AGRICULTURAL EMPLOYERS’ ASSOCIATION HELD ON 26TH NOVEMBER 2015 AT THE HOTEL CATHAY BOARDROOM, NAKURU

 

Our chief Guest, Mr. Paul Kosgei, fellow members, invited guests, members of the press, Ladies and Gentlemen;

 

It is with great humility and appreciation to God that we gather again for the 52nd Annual General meeting and the second that I am presiding over as the Chairman of the Association.  I sincerely thank you all for gracing this important occasion in our calendar.

 

AEA has indeed grown to what it is today since inception in 1962 by founders who had great vision for the farming community in Kenya.  As we anchor ourselves and draw lessons from the past, we have to courageously look forward to a future underpinned by the values the founders stood for.  We indeed salute our trustees, Executive Committee members, staff and social partners who have helped us walk the journey of 52 years.

 

Fellow members, during the two years under my chairmanship, am proud of the great strides made by the Association.  This could not have been possible without the support of my team of executive Committee and staff of AEA. We have enhanced capacity in terms of human capital, equipment and stabilized our financial base through introduction of additional services.  As you are aware, the Legal team has grown formidably and the team has handled fifteen (15) cases during the year under review compared to nineteen (19) the previous year.  The decline in the number of cases compared to the previous year is a clear indication that we have learnt to solve the potential legal challenges through other interventions.

 

The training and consultancy department has also grown immensely.  During the year under review, the Association handled eleven (11) open-house trainings sessions involving 250 number of participants drawn from various companies.  We also held four in-house training for four of our member farms.  Ladies and Gentleman, through training, we have addressed the gaps, which would hitherto trigger legal cases and unrest in member farms.  The Association was also registered as a trainer by NITA and at this juncture, let me thank my brother Mr. Paul Kosgey for the great support we have received from NITA.

 

Fellow members, industrial relations is our core mandate.  This is especially so in the labor-intensive agricultural sector we are involved in. Achieving industrial harmony in the competitive environment is therefore the only way of securing stable and adequate productivity in the farms.  Strikes and industrial action by the employees remains a serious threat to progress and productivity.  We have recently witnessed a dramatic increase in strikes in the Public sector, which Government needs to cub.  Strikes, though right in the constitution, does not add much value in modern business environment.  I stand here today to announce that among our members, we have not had serious strike action during the past year.  The farms have remained relatively peaceful except for some wildcat strikes at Karuturi Ltd (in receivership) and Shalimar Flowers Ltd.  We commend our social partners from the Union and wish to urge them to embrace more dialogue in resolving any challenges that will always emerge.

 

Fellow members, as an Association, we take cognizance of the fact that strength lies in our unity.  There is an African saying that “if you want to walk fast, you walk alone but if you want to go far, you must walk with others”.   The linkages that we have built over the years have given us strength and courage to face and overcome challenges that come our way.  Through our membership in KEPSA, FKE, and AIN, we have managed to escalate many issues that affect our members to the National level.  We have participated strongly in many forums.  Last week, we participated in the 5th Presidential Round Table at Statehouse. There have been a number of Ministerial Committees, and the Speakers round table, which I represented you in Mombasa.  We have had meetings with Council of Governors, County Governments Forums, meeting with CEC, which starts tomorrow in Mombasa and many other forums where we have lobbied for our interest. 

 

As you may be aware members, the promulgation of the New Constitution in 2010, significantly changed the way we do many things.  Very many of these changes have led to a positive result, while quite a few have come to haunt us.  Issues of land remains a thorny issue and those proposing changes are encouraged to tread very carefully.  The following bills have posed a threat to the existence of the commercial farms, which feed this Country and earn foreign exchange: -

ü    Community Land Bills;

ü    Minimum/maximum land holding;

ü    Physical planning Bill;

ü    Historical Injustices Bill.

 

Indeed, you do not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.  We are happy to report that during the year, we met the Senate Committee and National Assembly Committee on Land and Natural Resources to discuss the issues.  We also had candid discussion with the CIC where we discussed the contentious land issue affecting our membership.  Members, allow me at this juncture to appeal to the Government to make clear regulation and law devoid of political connotation on renewal of land leases. 

 

While the Constitution is clear that the lease on foreign owned land was reduced from 999 years, the same was given new leases by the Constitution for another 99 years with effect from 2010.  We are however hearing different interpretation of this straightforward issue from some sectors, including some Governors.  In the absence of formal clarity, such political statements made especially by various Governors are taking centre stage.  As an Association, we are against the statements and action touching on forceful land acquisition in the Tea, pineapple plantations, Conservancies, Ranching coffee.  We believe in rule of Law and sanctity of title deeds and by securing this, we can encourage investment.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have experienced challenges that affect our members and while some were resolved, others have escalated to Court.  Last year in June, NITA stripped reimbursement of statutory training and gave the contributors a notice of two days and no consultation took place.  We are happy to note that after dialogue with the Director General and his team, we were able to come to an agreement and today members get reimbursed on statutory trainings.

 

Our concerns on NSSF however were not addressed and we eventually proceeded to Court with KTGA and stopped the deductions based on new rates of 6% of basic pay.  The old rates of KShs.200/= persist for now until the case is heard and determined. We thank you for the financial contributions you made towards meeting the court fees.

 

On the CBA for the Flower industry, we still await the Court ruling on 4th December 2015 and hope the Union will be compelled to negotiate without conditionalities of choosing for management their negotiating team.  We note with much concern that all CBAs negotiated by KPAWU have recently ended up in Court.  We call upon the General Secretary Mr. Francis Atwoli to create time and provide leadership being an experienced person in industrial relations.  Equally, the Homa Lime Co Ltd CBA is also in Court and we await report of Economic Planning Division (EPD) that will be presented in Court soon.   The Farmer’s Choice Ltd (Rosemark Division) CBA also handled by the Association is in good progress and hope it will be finalized soon.  We thank you all for the contributions made towards CBA negotiations.  Together we shall indeed overcome.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, we continue to thank our other umbrella organizations for the continued support during the year.  Members, you may now be aware that the Association no longer enjoys secretarial services from FKE, hence we have had to manage our affairs on our own but in consultation with FKE.  The Association continues to represent the flower sub-sector in the Floriculture Wages Council where the CEO represents your interests.  The Council has now come up with the draft Wages Order with support of AEA through hosting of some forums.  We urge the Government to speed up the gazettement of the Wages Order.  We also bring to your attention that the Cabinet Secretary for Labour recently gazette the Council member for Agricultural Wages council where for the first time in its history we lack representation as a sector.  We have brought the anomaly to the attention of the Ministry and FKE and we hope the same will be corrected in due course.  The AEA cannot be represented by parastatal nor multi-national farms who have no interest in mixed farming in general agriculture where our members are drawn from.  We hope FKE will do the necessary follow-up on the issue.  Members, it is good to note that we have been in discussions with FKE on subscriptions which were increase from KShs.350,000/= to the current 2.2million.  Next year our subscription is expected to go up to 3.5 million, which remains unaffordable to us.  We are exploring all possible options with an open mind.

 

Fellow members, we commend the Government for its performance in the ease of doing business, which greatly improved from 122 to 108 through setting up of the Huduma Centres.  While we pride in those great strides made, we also wish to urge the Government to put more efforts in fighting corruption.  The EACC should be made more functional by appointment of the Commissioners.

 

As a private sector, our commitment against corruption is equally required.  We had sent out to you the code of ethics for signing.  We urge you to sign and send it back to the CEO as our commitment and support to the Government in fight against corruption.

 

Our Chief Guest, we wish to congratulate you once again for your confirmation as the Director General of NITA.  We have noted positive progress made since you took over the role.  The Floriculture curriculum was finally launched by you and the other curriculum for Tea, Ranching and Conservancies are in progress.  We however wish to see the rollout of the Floriculture curriculum.  We believe you will address our members’ concern in your speech.  The correspondences from NITA remain slow and generally, communication is a challenge.  We hope you are considering adopting electronic mail rather than posted letters, which sometimes arrive too late.  The approval and reimbursement procedures also need to be relooked into.  We also wish to request for setting up of sectoral committees by NITA.  Mr. Director General, perhaps you may wish to consider closer engagement with sector through regional forums on quarterly basis, which may be useful to both parties.  These members deserve that because they remain the leading contributor to the levy.

 

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is time for me to hand over the mantle to the incoming Chairman.  I take pride in what we have been able to achieve despite the difficulties.  I salute my entire team of colleagues in the Executive Committee without whom it would have been hard to make the strides I have enumerated.  Equally, in the staff led by the CEO, we have a competent team that has implemented our vision, mission and aspiration through the strategic plan.

 

As I bow out, I wish the new team the very best and assure them of my support.  As they say, a new broom sweeps cleaner.  We hope to see even greater achievements and stronger AEA in the years to come.

 

Distinguished Guests, members, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we go into the festive season, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 2016!

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