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October 31, 2010

Kenyan tea-industry workers strike over machine pickers

by Consolatah Lucas

Tea industry workers in Kenya, the world’s biggest exporter of black tea, began (October 18) a strike to demand that companies minimize the use of picking machines, the Central Organization of Trade Unions said.

The work stoppage went ahead even after employers gained a court order blocking the strike, Adam Baraza, personal assistant to the labor union’s secretary-general, Francis Atwoli, said in an interview.

“COTU fights for workers rights and therefore the strike continues until the issue is addressed,” Baraza said.

The strike involves an estimated 50,000 manual laborers in tea plantations in the western Rift Valley and is aimed at protecting the livelihoods of thousands of Kenyan families who will be affected if machines continue to be used, Baraza said.

Agriculture accounts for a quarter of gross domestic product in Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy. Tea production may increase by 11 percent to 350 million kilograms (770 million pounds) this year, the Kenya Tea Board said last month.


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