abusesaffiliationarrow-downarrow-leftarrow-rightarrow-upattack-typeburgerchevron-downchevron-leftchevron-rightchevron-upClock iconclosedeletedevelopment-povertydiscriminationdollardownloademailenvironmentexternal-linkfacebookfiltergenderglobegroupshealthC4067174-3DD9-4B9E-AD64-284FDAAE6338@1xinformation-outlineinformationinstagraminvestment-trade-globalisationissueslabourlanguagesShapeCombined Shapeline, chart, up, arrow, graphLinkedInlocationmap-pinminusnewsorganisationotheroverviewpluspreviewArtboard 185profilerefreshIconnewssearchsecurityPathStock downStock steadyStock uptagticktooltiptwitteruniversalityweb

15 Apr 2024

Constant Munda, Business Daily (Kenya)

Kenya: Companies breaching international labour rights standards to face sanctions under the proposed trade deal with USA

" US shocker for Kenyan firms with poor working conditions" 15 April 2024

Companies in Kenya that breach international labour rights will face costly court cases and possible trade sanctions under the proposed trade and financing deal between Nairobi and Washington.The American negotiators, led by the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa Constance Hamilton, are pushing to have organisations in both countries adopt and maintain internationally recognised labour rights in their national laws.“The text [proposed by the US] includes provisions aimed at promoting compliance with labour laws through commitments related to non-derogation from, and the effective enforcement of, labour laws,” the United States Trade Representative Office (USTR) wrote in the text released last Friday.“Additionally, the proposed text includes a mechanism to help create corporate accountability in cases where an entity violates local labour laws.”The two countries are locked in negotiations under the US-Kenya Strategic Trade and Investment Partnership (STIP) whose terms Nairobi and Washington started stitching together in July 2022 before the end of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s term in office.Internationally, companies require workers to have the freedom to associate and bargain for their pay through a collective bargaining agreement with employers, prohibit forced labour, bar child labour, and eliminate discrimination. The inclusion of a chapter compelling both parties to commit to international labour standards has come at a time when some of the world’s largest technology firms are battling court cases and allegations ranging from discrimination, poor pay, and inadequate psychological healthcare cover for workers.For example, Facebook owner, Meta, and its local agents — SamaDource EPZ Kenya and Majorel Kenya — have been sued by former contracted content moderators for alleged poor working conditions, including irregular pay, inadequate mental health support, and violations of privacy and dignity. Multinationals that have faced allegations related to violations of labour laws include Lancet, James Finlay, TikTok owners, Nokia, and ChatGPT owners.Read: Relief as President Biden endorses Agoa extension for Africa“The US text proposal also includes provisions establishing cooperative mechanisms to help the parties support each other in achieving ambitious labour goals and to collaborate constructively on labour issues, including through capacity building, and sharing information and best practices,” USTR says. “The parties would identify and collaborate on emerging labour issues, including related to promoting labour rights of workers in both the digital and informal economies, as well as inclusive and equitable workforce development.”Analysts say while international labour laws are aimed at ensuring workers’ rights are protected, the inclusion of the provisions through the proposed trade deal may be aimed at enhancing US soft power in Kenya and sidelining China.