500,000 workers have lost their jobs since Christmas

Around 500,000 workers have lost their jobs over the last two weeks due to post election violence.

And now the Central Organisation of Trade Union is warning that more workers are likely to be jobless unless things return to normal quickly.

On Friday, the union separately met president Mwai Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga and pleaded that they enter into talks to end the impasse and save the country's industries.

COTU boss Francis Atwoli said majority of the job losses were caused by companies which have laid off staff because of low business or closure. Workers have also been forced from their homes and jobs because of insecurity while some have been killed or injured.

Worst affected are workers in the tourism, agriculture and construction sectors where it is estimated more than 250,000 people have become jobless.

The tourism sector has particularly been adversely affected with thousands of casuals and other workers laid off as hotels close down due to lack of visitors. Majority of the hotels are recording less than 20 per cent occupancy forcing some of them to lay off nearly 95 per cent of their workforce.

"According to the Kenya Hotels and Allied Workers union, 30,000 people have so far been sacked in the toruism sector following the violence," COTU secretary general Francis Atwoli said.

The Coast branch chairman of the Kenya Association of Hotelkeepers and Caterers, Mohammed Hersi said 20,000 workers had been laid off by the industry as of last week. More lay-offs were expected later in the month unless there was a dramatic improvement in the situation.

In Eldoret 10,000 workers have so far been laid off by textile firms like Ken Knit and supermarkets which have been leased out.

"In Rongai and Bomet more than 60,000 employees in the tea and sisal industry have been laid off," he said.

Unilever which is one of the leading manufacturers of home care products laid off 20,000 workers while James Finlay which specializes in tea nad flower farming laid off 15,000 employees, he said.

"The situation is critical and unless calm is restored many more employers will be forced to lay off workers because of hostile business environment," warned Atwoli.

He said in Kisumu 100 workers have been killed while in Kericho 20 workers had died following the violence.

More than 10,000 workers in Kibera, Mathare and Dandora have been displaced, majority of them the people who work as casuals in the city's manufacturing and construction center.

The Kenya Association of Manufacturers chief executive Betty Maina said employers had so far lost property and goods in excess of Shs 3 billion.

Those who did not have their buildings destroyed or looted are incurring losses as they have lost a big share of their supply outlets and are therefore unable to sell their products.

"The loss so far stands at two per cent of last year's GDP", she said.

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