The history of FKE can be traced to the massive labour unrest of March 1955 in which trade unions demanded better terms of employment. This resulted in large industrial firms concluding that the industrial relations mechanism in Kenya needed to be reorganized. This conclusion led to the formation of Association of Commercial and Industrial Employers (ACIE) in 1956 which was later named the Federation of Kenya Employers.
The Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) is the national umbrella body and the voice of employers in Kenya. It serves as a platform for the articulation of key concerns of the employers in Kenya in the areas of socio-economic development. FKE is the most representative employers’ organization in the country, representing the employers’ interests both locally and internationally. It was established in 1959 under the Trade Unions Act Cap 233.
It is charged with representing the interests of employers at the tripartite level involving the Government, Employers and Workers, and since its establishment has served as a platform for advocacy of key concerns of employers in the areas of employment, labour relations and social policy.
Right from independence, the legal and institutional framework for employment relations in Kenya recognized freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. In fact these rights are entrenched in Kenya’s constitution and form part of the foundation of employment relations in the country. However, changing economic and political conditions had from time to time created conditions that tended to undermine these rights.
Over the years, FKE has transformed itself from a traditional employers’ organization focusing on industrial relations to include value added services that address the emerging needs of the now dynamic labour market. Some of these unique services have seen other companies and employers organizations come to FKE for a learning experience such us the provision of legal representation and organizational capacity building services. Despite a challenging economic, political and operating environment, the membership base has continued to grow steadily.
FKE is equally active in tripartite consultation and engagement with government and labour, both on issues that are directly related to the labour market and those that deal with broader economic and social policy. In several of such cases, the representation or participation of the Federation is at the top level. One such high level involvement is on the board of the re-invigorated National Social Security Fund, where the executive director of the Federation is the employers’ representative. Not only do gestures such as this provide an eminent opportunity to contribute to shaping public policy, they enhance the prospect for public policy that responds to employers’ broader interests.