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Precarious forms of employment have become rampant and a thorn that is eating workers in our country.

Trade unions in Kenya have adopted the International Labour Organisation(ILO)definition of precarious employment, as work which is devoid of a decent wage, a secure future, social protection and access to rights.

 According to ILO, it has been estimated by researchers that it is only less than two thirds of employed workers who still enjoy a permanent or ‘regular work’.

An estimate of 650,000 workers in Kenya are exposed to precarious conditions, excluding 15 million workers who are in the informal and gig economy.

In an article by ACTRAV in the ILO website, precarious employment is so prevalent and widely known especially to those who are currently seeking for employment.

It is so unfortunate that nowadays, it is almost impossible to find a ‘normal’ job. A ‘normal’ job is one that has decent wages, steady and full-time working hours and one that is secure.

The “normal’ job (decent work) is what is defined as one which is productive and delivers a fair income security and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration.

 It is also a job that offers freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment of all women and men.

Outsourcing, temporary employment (task-based contracts), fixed contracts, part-time work which includes piece-rate work and casual work are some of the major forms of precarious employment in Kenya.

Virtually, almost all organizations-public and private sectors have employees on fixed term, casual or seasonal contracts of service.

Sectors with the highest prevalence of precarious employment after research done by trade unions were found to be the manufacturing sector, textile and apparel, agriculture sector and hotel and catering sectors.

It is important to note that all these forms of precarious employment have one thing in common; workers are forced to bear the risk of being laid off at any time as they are easily disposed off immediately their services are not needed.

 It is important to note that this is against the ILO’s Philadelphia Declaration of 1944, which states “Labour is not a Commodity” to be traded in markets for the lowest price and that workers are human beings with rights, needs and aspirations.

In the public sector, for example, government sectors or organisations in Kenya are moving away from permanent and pensionable terms of employment to fixed term contracts of service.

 It is so unfortunate that the Government of Kenya has set the pace by employing new civil service staff on a three-year fixed term contract of service, which came into effect from July 1, 2019.

 While fixed term contract connotes seasonal contract, most organizations have borrowed the system of fixed term contract and made them continuously renewable, thereby defeating the purpose of the short-term and non-continuous nature of the job.

The implication is that employers resort to fixed term contracts of service to avoid labour costs and push the risks associated with the job to the worker.

With precarious forms of employment, employees face challenges that range from lack of sustainable consistent wage earnings to having no or only limited access to social protection.

With the new National Social Security Fund(NSSF) deduction rates that the government released, employees who are in precarious employment are left at a disadvantaged state of enjoying NSSF products and services.

Encouraging the precarious forms of employment is also a way of discouraging union activities and thereby, denying workers their rights of freedom of association as per Article 36 of the Constitution of Kenya and rights to labour relations according to Article 41 of the Constitution of Kenya.

We therefore urge the government to be on the frontline to promote decent work by offering permanent and pensionable employment and discouraging other sectors from the same.

With this, as a country, we will be moving closer to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) No. 1 (No Poverty) and 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth).

The decent work that we want the government to promote is one that offers decent pay that allows an adequate, secure standard of living for workers and their families and one with a regular, predictable, year-round hours.

A ‘normal job’ that does not have excessive overtimes and that fairly remunerates the overtime. Social security, which is a pillar of decent work, is also one aspect that the government should ensure every worker enjoys, including part-time employees.

Excellent health and safety conditions and at the same time comfortable working conditions should also be promoted in workplaces.

By offering permanent and pensionable, workers will also be in a position to have paid time off work for holidays, sick leave, study leave and compassionate leaves, which are acceptable by the laws of Kenya, specifically the Employment Act.