By Mzalendo Blogger
5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
The house switched into committee mode. MP Gor Sungu took the Speaker’s chair as the chairman of the committee, (not the speaker) and the committee members who debated an Employment Bill.
Minister Newton Kulundu would stand up and struggle to read that “I propose that clause as amended be approved” and the Chair would then ask MP’s to vote – “those in favor say aye, those who opposed say nay.” And this tedious process had to be repeated for all 80 clauses
in the bill, which took over an hour. It appeared boring, but as we have been told, committees are where debate and legislation is done.
Njoki Ndungu proposed 3 amendments to the Bill :
(i) to increase maternity leave of a new mother from two to three months
(ii) to grant new fathers 2 weeks paternity leave to tend to their new children and
(iii) to delete a clause in the current law that requires private employers who pay maternity costs for staff to be reimbursed by the National Social Security Fund (NSSF)
MP’s Ruth Oniango, Wangari Maathai and Charity Ngilu spoke in support of the maternity extension motions and the bills were passed by the
After 6:00 PM, the Vice President stood to pass a motion to adjourn the house for the day, and allow the committee to continue their debate thereafter. The house was in committee mode and the language used was slightly different. The VP, Labour Minister and even Njoki has several
time be instructed by the Chairman who himself was probably reading on the proper language to use on things like “make report” “I propose that the bill as amended be adopted” and even had to remind people that he was “Mr. Chairman” not “Mr. Speaker”.
So the Mace was put back on the table and the committee became parliament gain for a minute as the VP adjourned the house for the day. Gor Sunguh was back in his seat as MP, as he addressed the temporary Speaker with a report that the committee would continue
after adjournment. Then the Mace was removed and the committee resumed
its debate on the employment bill, with Sunguh back in the Chair.
After the 80 clauses were passed, MP Njoki Ndungu brought forward another amendment this time to grant a mother who adopts a child the same rights a mother of a newborn baby.
This amendment however did not sail as smoothly as the earlier ones.
It was opposed by Minister Kulundu several times, even once saying that a lady could
give birth and adopt a child every other year and always be on leave to which Njoki replied that was a male viewpoint unlikely to happen in real life. VP Moody Awori challenged the definition of an adopted child saying it did not make sense when a school age child was adopted to award
maternity leave to the mother. MP Justin Muturi asked for a definition of duties of a parent to an adopted child. MP Omingo Magara challenged the wording of the bill that gave mothers, and not fathers, rights to which Njoki replied that it was the current laws that did not recognize father rights to adopt
The amendment was awkwardly worded and Njoki kept amending the amendment – changing “child” to “infant”, deleting “duties”, but even her allies like Ruth Oniango could not fix it. At one time it appears the amendment had passed, but MP Magara said that the ‘final’
amendment had not been read out, and when it was, the amendment was
voted down by MP’s. It was later confirmed that the amendment did pass.
MP Julia Ojiambo stood to add another amendment called ‘gender action’ should proceeded to read out a 5 minute summary of what the Bill hoped to do which was in essence to require that the government balance out
by giving women 30% of employment in public sector. This also led to a lot of debate
Minister Martha Karua stood to support the motion saying it would out into the laws what it no the government position that 30% of public service jobs be set aside for women.
Chairman Sunguh asked that MP’s carefully analyze the amendment since the definition in the amendment was any organization that received public funds, including the parliament – and if that was workable or they would end up in industrial court forever.
Minister Kulundu said that the matter should be addressed to the Minister for Public Service who was present. Minister for Public Service Akaranga added that such an amendment should be directed to the public service reform bill being drawn up by
his ministry to be presented later (even in the next parliament). MP Justin Muturi argued that this would be regulated by a board which was not even in existence and seriously would offer tax breaks to private companies for complying with the 30% law.
Debate was still going on up to 7:00 PM, but the amendment appeared doomed