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Chefs: We don't want praise without pay

10 June 2013, 18:08 Bob Ndwiga

Chefs of tourist-class Hotels in Kilifi County on Monday asked employers to improve their salary packages and working conditions.

The hotel professionals said current salaries and allowances are too low compared to those paid to colleagues in other local, regional and international tourist resorts.

In a petition read to the Press at the Radhi Koo Restaurant in Malindi, the members of the Malindi Cooks Welfare Association (MCWA) said their rights for better wages commensurate with their skills in the kitchen had been abused for far too long.

The organization members demanded that investors in the tourism sector review the present pay packages for chefs and cooks upwards to make them on a par with their colleagues working in Nairobi and tourist resorts elsewhere regionally and internationally.

Led by their chairman Katana Ngala, the chefs said that they were keen to engage professionally with foreign owners of Hotels and Restaurants to air their grievances.

“Management of tourist-class Hotels in the Kilifi County, majority of which are owned by wealthy foreign investors, pay very low wages to us and our demands for a pay rise have for years gone unanswered,” said Ngala.

Ngala said the formation of the now 30-member association was the first step in bringing together more than 2 000 chefs and cooks serving the Hotels industry in the Kilifi County, majority of whom were desperate due to years of poor pay.

Ngala said the Chefs in the County had a reputation of earning some of the worst salaries and allowances despite their international recognition and their being at ease in preparing some of the best cuisines in the local Hotels and at times even for world respected VIPs.

“We cannot continue receiving praises from reputable VIPs in Malindi resorts because of our well prepared cuisines and then end with poor wages and frustration due to poverty,” said Ngala.

He said that the organization was keen to work with the new devolved Kilifi County government under Governor Amason Jefa Kingi to ensure that their grievances for better working conditions are heard and met.

The Chairperson said according to research conducted by the group on salaries and allowances paid to foreign chefs and cooks in key resorts in the country, Malindi chefs earn peanuts.

“Our pay packages should be streamlined to be commensurate and correspond with our work, skills and international salary standards. We cook for the same type quality of clients and guests who patronize international hotels and Restaurants where payments are good and satisfactory,” said Ngala.

"Chefs in Malindi earn between KES 35 000 and KES 40 000 against the counterparts in Nairobi who earn between KES 150 000 and KES 180 000," said Ngala.

Foreign chefs working in Malindi earn between KES 270 000 and KES 300 000 a month. Kenyan staff holding similar position in game lodges earn between KES 120 000 and KES 130 000 a month.

The chairman said that once Kenyan chefs are hired on contract in foreign countries such as Dubai, South Sudan, Kenya and Tanzania, they earn comfortable salaries and allowances.

According to him, most of the chefs and cooks in the County were hired on temporary basis and during the low tourist season - between April and July - which affects the region leading to closure of hotels and Restaurants they worked for without any income.

He further said investors in the tourism sector should respect the skills of Kenyans and the available labour rights and start engaging key workers like chefs on permanent basis.

The chefs also said that chefs' training at the Kenya Utalii College through refresher courses collapsed recently hence the need for the County government to ensure that courses from the college were devolved.

“We shall launch a campaign to have the Kenya Utalii College launch a campus in the Kilifi County because it is clear the County’s economy depends almost entirely on international tourism,” remarked Ngala.

He said the group would also pursue means to launch their own middle level training college and a Restaurant to train young people to become chefs and cooks in order to continue providing professional skills in the expanding tourism industry.

Ngala said the kitchen remained a very key segment in the hotel sectors and it was wrong for investors in the Kilifi County to ignore the department yet most tourists depending on their cuisines whenever they visit.

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