Kenya - The minister for Labor contravened two regional treaties when they recently banned the use of tea-plucking machines.
The attorney-general told the court to uphold the doctrine of separation of powers as the Central Organization of Trade Unions insisted that the machines should be banned to protect jobs in line with the Government’s pledge to create more employment.
James Finlay and Sotik Tea Companies also told the court that Dr Newton Kulundu’s directive had interfered with the industry and created “uncertainty.” They also said Dr Kulundu breached the Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) and East African Community treaties when he ordered members of the Tea Growers Association to stop using the machines.
The firms, through lawyer Esther Kinyenje, told Lady Justice Roselynne Wendoh that the Comesa pact stipulated that “member states shall promote rural development through the promotion of appropriate technologies.”
She said the EAC pact provides that member countries shall strengthen the private sector by providing an enabling environment. “The minister’s directive goes against the spirit of the two treaties,” she said, adding: “The two treaties are applicable to Kenya since it has signed up to both.”
Kinyenje said the minister exceeded his powers when he gave the directive because “the Trade and Disputes Act only provides for the minister to give directives in respect to strikes and workers’ issues and not the introduction of new technologies.”
An order by the court to recall and quash the minister’s directive will infringe on the principle of separation of powers, he added.
If the firms are allowed to use the machines many jobs will be lost and that will not be helping the Government which promised to create 500,000 jobs every year,” Cotu lawyer Judith Guserwa said.