On first May, we all pause to celebrate the contributions made by workers to our country`s and indeed global economy through their sweat in various sectors. The typical news from various governments is an increase in the minimum wage package, Kenya hasn`t had any increase for the last four years due to contestation by employers about a non-performing economy even though we hear of super profits made by various conglomerate’s in the country; majority of which are repatriated. On 1st May 2022, our President thus announced an increase on minimum wage of about 12% even though labour unions were agitating for 24% and there is always a likeliness that few companies get to implement this unless there are strong unions in the affected sectors.
This is the subject of my reflection today, how can we increase the participation of persons with disabilities and their representatives in the labour movements on the continent and beyond? It is an open secret that this population is minimally represented or in some cases, has totally no representation in the available labour unions yet their issues as regards employment require the attention of labour movements.
Apart from collective bargaining for terms of employment and other issues at the workplace that includes safety, accessibility and the likes, there is an elephant in the labour market where workers who identify with one type of a disability or another; fail to make it job mobility.
Persons with disabilities stay on entry level jobs until their retirements due to blatant discrimination that is caused by sheer ignorance from some human resource personnel or lack of policies that are inclusive thus providing equal opportunities for every staff member who qualifies to move upward in their job grades on merit.
It is already challenging to get a job as someone with a disability, thus such an injustice where someone is stagnant at a job grade for two decades can go unnoticed because of the fear of being sacked from the job should you raise your voice on such yet it is considered “a favour” for you to be in employment; your qualification’s notwithstanding.
A strong representation of persons with disabilities in labour unions will help cure this abnormality in the long-run, because their voices will begin to penetrate labour unions bargaining agendas with their respective employers – raising specific needs relating to employees with disabilities as part of the workforce in any given industry.
It should also be noted that, persons with disabilities can belong to any sector of the economy depending on their qualifications- the attempt made by employers to classify only low cadre of jobs as those that can be done by persons with disabilities is a form of discrimination that needs to be fought with all-might, I will address this substantively in a future post.