Massive job losses loom in timber milling companies
Wycliff Kipsang @wsang08
Massive job losses loom in timber manufacturing companies in Western region following the government’s ban on logging in public forests.
More than 2,000 employees in the sector are sweating it out over fear of losing their jobs and fear for the worst if the ban is not lifted.
Speaking on behalf of employees of Raiplywood Kenya Limited in Eldoret, Christopher Mukeya said they are now a worried lot.
“Our employers have been candid concerning the issue. However, we now fear we may soon be laid off due to lack of raw materials,” he said.
Workers in timber milling industries have since appealed to the government to reconsider the ban on logging in public forests.
It also emerged that the management of many timber industries in the region have written to the workers’ unions about their intention to lay off some employees due to redundancy.
“Many employers will face difficulties in paying terminal dues for affected workers as they are facing financial constraints due to the ban. Some workers have worked for these companies for over 20 years,” said Mukeya.
Mukeya also says Saccos and banks have put them on notice because of their unpaid facilities that have started attracting penalties.
“We also have children in school, unless something is done they will drop out,” said Mukeya.
He continued: “Many of us have also been withdrawn from the National Hospital Insurance Fund cover due to non-compliance of payment.”
Many timber industries in the North Rift depend on public forests like Kaptagat and Timboroa to source their raw materials.
Workers are now proposing that the government lifts the ban and involve employees in timber industry in replanting trees where some have been cut.
Timber Manufacturers Association (TMA) has acknowledged that the government’s logging ban in public forests has thrown the industry into disarray with hundreds set to be rendered jobless.
“The move will slow implementation of the government’s Big Four Agenda; especially housing and manufacturing due to escalated costs of timber,” TMA said in a statement recently.
TMA says the industry is the simplest form of industries providing informal and formal employment to thousands of people in rural areas.
“The ban is causing unemployment, thereby affecting the livelihoods of hundreds of Kenyans,” TMA added.
Association has estimated that one million Kenyans employed directly or indirectly by the industry will be rendered jobless.
TMA argues that the industry stands to lose millions of shillings on trees that have already been harvested but still lying in forests due to decomposition and risk of poaching.
“Most of the allocated forest materials have loans pegged on them and hence our members risk defaulting on financial commitments.
The Kenyan economy is projected to lose billions during the moratorium,” TMA statement read further.
TMA says industries and institutions like schools and hospitals that rely on fuel wood are bound to have an increase in operation costs.
Saw millers have maintained they strictly operate under the law, and dismissed claims that they were behind wanton destruction of water towers.
“Before our members can engage in any form of harvesting, they have to be prequalified by the authorised agency through a comprehensive evaluation of vetting process,” the statement read.
TMA has maintained that the felling of trees is guided by the Forest Plantation Management Plan is provided for each Forest Station.
Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has since intensified crackdown on saw millers still engaging in wanton deforestation.
Several saw millers have been arrested and tons of logs impounded in the North Rift region in an operation against destruction of forests.
According to KFS, more than 25,000 hectares of public forest in the region is under illegal settlement including several learning institutions.