CHAIRMAN COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS’ RESPONSE TO HEALTH WORKERS STRIKE

The Central Organization of Trade Unions, COTU (K) is increasingly concerned over the casual manner in which the county governments continue to address the crisis in the Health Sector following the on-going Industrial action by our health workers.

Particularly, the response yesterday by the chairman of the Council of Governors, Hon Wycliffe Oparanya dismissing the strike action as not protected and that governors are not ready  to listen to the striking health workers because they “earn more than enough”  was unfortunate and aims to provoke the striking  workers further.

COTU (K) considers these utterances by the Chairman of the Council of Governors to be absolutely unacceptable, totally ill-advised and morally wrong for a leader of the Chairman of Governors’ stature and together with his colleagues he should now take responsibility for the crisis this country faces in the health sector.

Kenya is a signatory to various international instruments governing the world of work including International Labour Organization’s Convention C098 and C154 on the Rights to Organize and to Collective Bargaining as well as C144 on Tripartite Consultations and the Chairman of the Council of Governors should know that chest-thumping and threats targeting the striking health workers will not provide any solution but rather let the county governments under his leadership agree to dialogue with our frontline health workers and agree on  a return-to-work formula that will end the stalemate in the sector.

COTU (K) appreciates the initiative being made by the national government through the two ministries of Health and Labour and Social Protection and the Council of Governors should take a cue from these initiative and find a better way to engage these health workers for the sake of the many suffering Kenyans who require their services.

At the same time, County Governments should stop politicizing Industrial Relations’ matters and it would be prudent for Hon. Oparanya as a leader to respond cautiously, responsibly and intelligently to the demands by health workers and not to respond as if he has just landed from the moon and with a huge big-man-syndrome because what these health workers are demanding isn’t his personal money; let him keep his personal cash but as the chairman of the Council of Governors he should be alive to the fact that these workers are demanding for a rightful budgetary allocation for both national and county governments to address their health obligations to the citizens.

Kenya is trading on not so comfortable grounds and now that our children are in school, should a further pandemic hit us and God forbid, this country will be in a situation unprecedented; we shouldn’t allow ourselves to get there as a result of such irresponsible and crude utterances from leaders who have perfected the art of arrogance whenever they are before a microphone.

The entire leadership of all these frontline health workers have and continue to express their willingness to enter into dialogue with both levels of government and it is only responsible that our political leaders reciprocated this gesture and listened to these workers’ grievances other than being dismissive and arrogant in their public responses.

Dr. Francis Atwoli, NOM (DZA), CBS, EBS, MBS

SECRETARY GENERAL

COTU (K) POSITION ON THE TAX LAWS (AMENDMENT) BILL 2020

Last week, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Tax Laws (Amendment) (No.2) Bill of 2020 ending close to eight months’ government measures to cushion salaried workers in the wake of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

This means that the tax relief measures enacted by the Government of Kenya in April to cushion Kenyans from the economic shock brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic will cease as of 1st January 2021 and, subsequently, the prices of household good will go up considering the Value Added Tax (V.A.T) will return to 16% from 14%; the corporate income tax will increase from 25% to 30% and much more disturbing and hurting is the fact that salaried workers earning above 32,333 will pay a maximum of 30% as Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax as reported in Today’s Copy of Daily Nation.

With only 2.5% of salaried Kenyans earning above 100,000 and a majority of about 80.5% earning below 50,000, it is insensitive of the Kenyan Government to introduce punitive tax measures at a time when many workers have lost employment (as a result of the Pandemic) and are pondering on how they will manage to take their children to school when schools open in January.

As much as we understand that the government is struggling to balance between saving the economy and surviving through the pandemic (including the health crisis), we believe that there are alternative ways the government can use to meet its obligations without being insensitive to the working poor.

The government should be reminded that the reasons for which they gave these tax incentives early this year, in April, are as valid today as they were then, if not more. By reversing these measures are they saying that, as a country, we have conquered the Covid-19 pandemic? What is it that has changed since April to convince the government that Kenyans are out of the woods and that these tax measures won’t be burdensome? What are the indicators government is using?

As the umbrella workers body in the country representing over 4 Million workers, COTU (K) is totally opposed to these decisions by government and remind the government that the Kenyan workers, like the rest of the workers globally, are hurting and at pain to put food on the table. The government should, therefore, spare us any provocation through such punitive tax measures.

The National Treasury MUST be creative and innovative and ably advise both parliament and the executive on other alternative measures it can employ in order to sustain our economy. They must not always be in a rush to impose unreasonable taxes to a population that is hurting and bed-ridden as Covid-19 ravages the country and beyond.

Let Treasury learn how to balance between providing services to Kenyans with the same taxes and burdening Kenyans in the process of collection of these taxes. The Government of Kenya should not overburden its citizens, especially during these hard times.

In fact, the government must begin realizing that anybody earning below 100,000 in this country needs to be cushioned against excessive taxes and that those earning up to 100,000 and they are on the verge of retirement need even to be cushioned further by not being taxed.

Equally, and to help the government run its duties, the government must stop spending on unnecessary projects that have no immediate requirement. It is a fact you cannot kill Kenyans while telling them you are building roads for them because they need to be alive to use the same roads. The government must, especially now, learn how to be less ambitious on some of its development projects.

At the same time, KRA should embark on a radical exercise of collecting taxes from those Kenyans who have mastered the art of avoiding payment of taxes. KRA MUST stop and think of innovative ways of tax collection. Especially from those who don’t pay taxes. This is not the first time KRA has missed its revenue collection target. Therefore, they should stop using Covid-19 as a scapegoat. They should innovate and increase their efficiency.

Dr. Francis Atwoli and Sis. Rebecca Nyathogora among Kenyans awarded State Commendation

The Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya) officials among them the Secretary-General of the organization, DR. Francis Atwoli, were among the 471 Kenyans awarded a State Commendation during the 2020 Jamhuri Day Celebrations. 

Cognizant of his role in the labour movement not just in the continent but in the globe, His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta feted COTU (K) Secretary General with an Order of the Burning Spear award referred to as the first class chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS). 

The Order of the Burning Spear award has three classes, namely, first class (Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear), second class (Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear) and third class (Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear).

This award is, in most occasions, given for distinguished services with the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) conferred on principal public dignitaries, exemplary members of the public service and other professionals.

Also on the list of those conferred State Commendations, from COTU (K), was the Treasurer General, Sis. Rebecca Nyathogora, who was awarded a Head of State Commendation (HSC) Civilian Division award.

This award, like other awards given by the President of the Republic of Kenya, is given to a person who merits the conferment of national honour, as provided for in the National Honours Act 2013.

This act stipulates that a person can only be conferred such honours if that person “has made an exemplary contribution to the country or a county in the economic, social, scientific, academic, public administration, governance, sports, journalism, business, security or other fields”, or when he “has otherwise brought honour, glory or pride to the Republic”. 

Sis. Rebecca has been instrumental in the reconstruction of the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu and in community-based development. As a trade unionist, she has been on the frontline in articulating workers interests and protecting workers rights.

Other trade unionists awarded these State Commendation on the recommendation of COTU (K) were Bro. Wafula Musamia, of the Quarry Workers Union, who was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya and Sis. Otolo. 

 

 

Message from SG on Mashujaa Day: Unionists and workers have always been our heroes.

Today, we choose to celebrate Kenyan workers and unionist for their resilience, selflessness and patriotism. Indeed, ours is a country whose history is replete with examples of workers and unionists fighting tirelessly, at the frontline, to always protect our identity as a people and as a state.

If we were to travel in time, back in the 1960’s, we would have seen trade unionists in Africa, Asia and Latin America fighting with zeal to deliver independence for their countries. In the case of Kenya, it is the trade unionists who continued the struggle for an independent Kenya against the colonialists when the leaders were in detention.

As a matter of fact, the history of this country is the history of trade unionists. And that is why we owe a great debt of gratitude to Tom Mboya, Fred Kubai, Makhan Singh, Clement Lubembe, Ochola Mak’Anyengo, Dennis Akumu, Maina Macharia, Aggrey Minya among others. These, for a very long time now, have been and still remain our Mashujaa.  

But this year, in a special way, we want to celebrate frontline workers in the face of Covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 was, and still remains, a great existential threat to our identity and many years of development as a county. Knowing all too well how dangerous Covid-19 is we still saw hundreds of thousands of workers going all out, risking their lives, to make sure that Kenyans, in their millions, continued benefiting from essential services and are comfortable. 

This very act from these Kenyan workers was selfless and nothing short of sacrifice. In fact, the Holy Bible does say that this is what loves looks like. Just like Jesus Christ, these workers were willing to give up their lives for their brothers and sisters. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Thank you to all our doctors, nurses, security personnel, shopkeepers, traders, journalists, drivers and all other essential service providers. We also say a BIG THANK YOU to our worker number one. The President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta. Your work and love for workers has been seen throughout this difficult and unpredictable time. History will absolve you for being there for Kenyan workers when they needed you the most.  Wewe ni shujaa.

We, as COTU-K, celebrate all frontline workers for their act of love. We promise to never cease to speak for them though the heavens fall. We promise to continue championing for them, relentlessly, for a decent work environment. We promise to ensure that their voices are heard by continuing empowering their unions. We promise that we will remain true to serving all workers, as they remained true to serving all Kenyans. Nyinyi ni Mashujaa.

   

Dr. Francis Atwoli, NOM (DZA), EBS, MBS

Secretary-General, COTU-K

Dr. Atwoli International Center for Labour Studies to be constructed at Masinde Muliro University

On October 17th 2020, COTU-K Secretary-General held a consultative meeting with council members of Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) led by their Council Chair Dr. Musangi Mutua and Vice-Chancellor Prof. Solomon Shibairoat the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu. 
The meeting which was moderated by the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Education (State Department for University Education & Research) Amb. Simon Nabukwesi, deliberated at length on the construction of Dr. Atwoli International Centre for Labour Studies at MMUST.
This center will be used for the purposes of teaching industrial relations, the history and politics of Labour Unions, unionism, negotiations et al.  

COTU-K SG Brother Dr. Atwoli is spearheading the process of raising the funds for the construction which is estimated at 1.1 Billion.

 

COTU-K Secretary General meets General Secretaries of Affiliate Unions

COTU-K Secretary-General Dr. Francis Atwoli held three hours meeting with more than forty General Secretaries of COTU-K affiliate unions. 

In attendance, from COTU-K officials, were also Bro. Rajabu Mwondi (Chairman), Rev. Joel Chebii (1st Vice-Chairman), Bro. Benson Okwaro (Deputy Secretary-General), Bro. Ernest Nadome (1st Assistant Secretary-General) and Sis. Rebecca Nyathogora (Treasurer General).

Before the commencement of the meeting, Bro. Rajabu Mwondi invited all the GS to observe a minute of silence for the unionist who had passed on and those who had left parents during the harsh times and relatives.

The Secretary-General thanked the General Secretaries for their firm stand and commitment during the harsh period brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. This was largely inspired by the fact that most unions have maintained calmness and demonstrated excellent leadership even though most of their members were being affected. 

He then made a presentation on how Covid-19 had not just affected our healthcare but also workers and unions at large, a brief on what is happening at Tom Mboya Labour College, a note on the forthcoming elections, and finally what is happening at the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT).

Of importance, and what in a way got a lot of focus, was the reconstruction taking place at the Tom Mboya Labour College. The Secretary-General thanked the General Secretaries for their contributions towards this noble initiative and went ahead to highlight some of the key reconstructions going on.

On the forthcoming elections, the Secretary-General encouraged the General Secretaries to stay and operate within the constitution so as to avoid conflicts that might arise from the lack of strict conformity to the law.

The meeting was followed by a press conference which was delivered by the Secretary General to, inter alia, support KNUT considering the challenges they are facing with their current employer and give a unionist perspective of the state of the nation.

STATEMENT ON IMPOSITION OF INDIVIDUALS AS TRADE UNION OFFICIALS

Our attention has been drawn to a post circulating online that a union claiming to represent Floriculture and Horticulture workers dubbed Kenya Export Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union held a meeting with the Deputy President to discuss among other things economic restoration in post-COVID-19.

We would like to state as follows:

  1. The existence of any Trade Union is pegged on its ability to foremost command representation by having a Recognition Agreement (RA) and a Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA) for its members and affiliation foremost to the national trade union center as well as other Global Union Federations (GUFs)
  2. The so-called Kenya Export Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union has no single Locus Standi to claim to be a trade union since the entity has never entered into any CBA with any employer nor Recognition Agreement and is not even recognized by the umbrella employer in the sector, Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) and neither is it recognized by the sole umbrella trade union representing employers in the country, the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE).
  3. Kenya Export Floriculture, Horticulture and Allied Workers Union is not an affiliate of COTU-K which is the sole umbrella workers body in Kenya.
  4. Employees in the floriculture and horticulture sector are full-fledged members of the giant Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) which is headquartered in Nakuru.

Therefore, anyone claiming to be an official of the aforementioned entity can best be described as an extortionist and conman masquerading as a trade union official to attract handouts from leaders while exploiting the worker’s platform. We challenge the team accompanying the alleged General Secretary to provide any proof of their registration as officials of any trade union in Kenya and caution government officials not to fall prey to these imposters.  

Dr. Francis Atwoli, NOM (DZA), EBS, MBS

Secretary General, COTU-K.

COTU-K SG addressed senior managment staff of Masinde Muliro University

COTU-K Secretary-General, Dr. Francis Atwoli, addressed senior management staff of Masinde Muliro University of Science & Technology, led by the Ag. Vice-Chancellor Prof. Solomon Shibairo, at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kenya.
 
The Secretary-General urged the staff to take a lead in nurturing a society of virtuous citizens focused on professionalism and improving lives.
He lauded the efforts by the Vice-chancellor to improve the human resource of the university and quality of education. 
 

COTU-K SG meeting with Kudheiha workers union and young trade unionist in Kisumu.

COTU-K Secretary-General Dr. Francis Atwoli, today, addressed Kudheiha Workers Union shop-stewards at Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu on issues touching on representation and workers’ rights.

The leadership of Kudheiha Workers Union, through their General Secretary Albert Njeru, lauded the COTU-K Secretary-General for his firm leadership and his dedication towards the modernization of Tom Mboya Labour College.

The Tom Mboya Labour College, which is under reconstruction, is a training and learning facility located in Kisumu used to, inter alia, train workers, offer labour related courses, hold conferences.

The COTU-K Secretary-General encouraged the young trade unionists to continue fighting fearlessly for the rights of workers and to remain vigilant against being lured into illegal dealings.

The S.G. also emphasized the importance of hard work and why a true trade unionist must remain a person of virtue, integrity, and discipline.

COTU-K supports TAWU initiative on decent work and social protection in the transport sector.

COTU-K supports the resolve by the Transport & Allied Workers Union to improve social protection and enhance decent work for transport workers in informal public transport (matatu, bodaboda, and digital cabs).

Yesterday TAWU together with COTU-K, NHIF, Safaricom & NSSF did an awareness campaign a new product called HabaHaba.

HabaHaba is an integrated USSD (*303#) based technology that allows workers in matatu, bodaboda, and digital cabs to make small payments, either daily, weekly, or monthly to finance for union dues, NHIF, and NSSF. The product also offers a personal accident cover and last expense to the workers.

With the NSSF paybill as the collection wallet, contributions made are distributed to individual partners’ paybills in real-time through a B2B split technology system.

Through the same technology, workers are able to download reports on their contribution and the union is able to enhance compliance as well as address any issues that may arise.

COTU-K, through their representative, emphasized the importance of joining a trade union considering the job security that comes with that and also enlightened the transport workers present on decent work and advocacy of public transport as a public good.

Other issues discussed included the importance of formalizing the jobs in the transport sector and why union members need to be represented in the NTSA board.

Constitution of Kenya at ten: A unionist perspective

As a country, we’ve just marked ten years since the promulgation of the current constitution on 27th August 2010. A constitution that has been hailed to be one of the best not just in the continent but in the world. And even though in the previous years we the people have been stopping to reflect on the hits and misses since its promulgation, this year has seen a deep, candid and honest examination of the 2010 constitution.

For us, in trade unions, this constitution has presented both great opportunities and at the same time monumental challenges.  

My mind is still clear and in synch with the speech that I gave during the Labour day May 1st celebrations in 2017. It is then that I provoked Kenyans to start thinking about constitutional change. I was, without doubt, the first leader that came out public and called for constitutional change. In that speech, that I delivered at Uhuru park, I was fierce and categorical that Kenyans needed to amend the 2010 constitution to give way to peace, unity and development by way of expanding the executive arm of government.  

This, however, should not be misconstrued to mean that the 2010 constitution should be thrown in the bin. No. As I have mentioned earlier, this is a very progressive constitution. Many parts of this constitution are admirable. In fact, as COTU-K we supported the 2010 constitution having considered some of its unique opportunities.

For example, we highly believed, then, that it will bring about political stability in the country. Secondly, our delegates played a major role in the formulation of article 41. That because of the 2010 constitution, Kenyan workers were going to be entitled to fair remuneration, reasonable working conditions, to form or join and participate in the activities of a trade union and the right to go on strike among other rights.

Thirdly, provisions such as those chapter six on Leadership and Integrity were good for enhancing a leadership that respects our national values and principles. These are just but few of the incredibly admirable opportunities presented to us by the 2010 constitution.  

But now, ten years later, with the benefit of hindsight, I would like to buttress my position, as in my 2018 speech, that we need to amend our constitution to change aspects of it that threaten our very existence as a country.

I know there have been concerns about the role of unionists in politics. But, today, I would like to request those who question my role, as a trade unionist, in politics to read history…The history of this country is the history of trade unionists. I say so because it is unthinkable and incomplete to discuss the history of this country, especially the struggle for independence, without discussing the role played by trade unionists

One of the major observations, we in the trade unions have been able to make, is that ten years later elections in Kenya are still a cut-throat affair. The 2010 constitution did not fix the problem of leadership. As a result, during the last two electoral cycles Kenyans have lost loved ones; properties worthy billions have been destroyed; the economy shrinks; investors have shunned away from investing in the county; people have lost jobs, etc.

To avoid the negative peace that we have in the country a constitutional amendment is consequential. And because the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) has set out to redefine our politics and address those aspects of politics and our lives that have hampered our development, we in trade unions will not hesitate to support it.

I know there have been concerns on the role of unionist in politics. But, today, I would like to request those who question my role, as a trade unionist, in politics to read history.

The history of this country is the history of trade unionists. I say so because it is unthinkable and incomplete to discuss the history of this country, especially the struggle for independence, without discussing the role played by trade unionists such as Tom Mboya, Clement Lubembe, Fred Kubai, Makhan Singh, Ochola Mak’Anyengo, Dennis Akumu, Aggrey Minya among others.

One of the reason unionists are so passionate about politics is because it’s politics that determines everything. It’s politics that determines who gets what, when, and how. Therefore, the role of politics in development of the country and especially of the workers cannot be downplayed. It is politics that determines the development of workers.

It’s politics that determines if a country has political stability and therefore economic growth, meaning more jobs and better salaries. Everything boils down to politics. In fact, in some countries, trade unions form, or legally belong to and support, a given political party. A good example of this is the long standing Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

The only way workers would be heard in the coming dispensation is by being rightfully represented now. That’s why we have not allowed the voices that would otherwise have us reduced to spectators overpower our determination for representing the Kenyan worker in talks of a better Kenya. If the country is politically stable post the BBI, it only means more economic stability and therefore more jobs and better pay.

In conclusion, we, in the trade unions, support calls for the amendment of the constitution by expanding the executive and relooking at our governance structure with a view of accommodating everyone so that the violence experienced after every general election can finally be a thing of the past, because majority of those negatively affected by the violence are workers, women and children.  

Dr. Francis Atwoli, NOM (DZA), EBS, MBS

Secretary General, COTU-K

COTU-K and FES conduct four days online training on efficient and effective communication

The Central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya (COTU-K) together with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) conducted a four days online training to officials of more than forty trade unions in Kenya on efficient and effective communications. The training was officially opened by Bro. Benson Okwaro, the Deputy Secretary-General for COTU-K, on 20th August 2020 with subsequent trainings taking place on 25th, 26th and 27th of the same month.

On the first day, the officials were oriented and generally introduced to the objectives of the workshops. Peter Baraza made a presentation on the importance of mainstreaming ICT in Trade Unions followed by Dr. Damaris Muhika, from COTU-K, who presented on some of the campaign issues trade unions can address by use of ICT. After that, Sis Jaqueline Njambi made a presentation on communication for trade unions and agenda-setting. The day ended with a discussion on how unions can better embrace the use of ICT and social media.

Bro. Benson Okwaro, Deputy Secretary General COTU-K

The second day started with a recap of the discussions that took place during day one and then a presentation by Bro. Eric Oduor on how trade unions can better utilize mainstream media. He emphasized on opportunities and challenges in the use of mainstream media as a channel of communication for trade unions.

Dr. Damaris Muhika, COTU-K

This was then followed by a presentation from Dr. Mbugua Njoroge, from the Media Council of Kenya, on newsworthiness. He shared with the officials some of the accepted and workable strategies used by other organizations that have been able to capture the attention of mainstream media. The day ended with a discussion on how to use mainstream media to advance the agenda of trade unions.

Dr. Mbugua Njoroge, Media Council of Kenya

On the third day, Bro. Peter Baraza conducted a training on how to successfully design and execute a social media campaign for trade unions. Later on, the officials were grouped to brainstorm on some of the campaigns they can execute and how they will go about it.

Sis Jacqueline Njambi, COTU-K

The final day started with a recap of the discussions and presentation of the previous days then a presentation from Akisa Wandera, one of Kenya’s top NEWS anchor, on effectively utilizing mainstream media.

Akisa Wandera, News Anchor KTN

The meeting was finally closed by Bro Njeru, the GS for KUDHEIHA. Participants, during the vote of thanks, expressed a lot of interest in attending subsequent training on such important issues affecting trade unions. They urged the organizers to organize other training that would improve not just communication in and out of trade unions but the better functionality of trade unions.

The organizers of the training were Sis. Jacqueline Njambi from COTU-K and Brenda Chelangat.