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.


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.   

COTU-K officials distribute food and PPEs in Kajiado.

On the 17th of August, COTU-K officials in association with officials from Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union (KPAWU) distributed food and personal protective equipment(s) to flower workers in Isinya, Kajiado County. 

Apart from engaging the workers on their rights, especially now during Covid-19, our officials also emphasized on the importance of staying safe during this period.

workers were encouraged to continue sanitizing, wearing masks, and observing social distancing.

President Keita was a champion for workers’ rights

Even as Mali is experiencing political upheavals and currently in murky waters, I would like, on behalf of all African workers, to wish President Ibrahim Abubakar Keita well and safety. President Keita has been a pro-worker president who, for long, has put the interests of workers above everything else.

In my service to Africa as the President of Organization of African Trade Unions Unity (OATUU) we had a cordial working relationship with President Keita: OATUU brings together 54 African countries and has its headquarters based in Accra, Ghana.

We were privileged to be hosted by President Keita in March 2017 when I was re-elected as the president for this organization.  He remained true to his commitment of ensuring decent work and protecting worker’s rights in his service to Mali.   

I would also like to urge other Heads of State to follow in his example of being supportive of workers’ rights and decent work.


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

COTU-K, Secretary General.


PPE Distribution

The Central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya COTU (K) in Partnership with  Solidarity Center under the Program COTU CARES  donated Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to informal workers at COTU-(K) headquarters.

COTU (K)  Executive Board Members and  affiliates unions General Secretaries  KUDHEIHA, AUKMW, KUCFAW and KLDTDU were present led by Bro.  Albert Njeru, Bro Boniface Kavuvi and Sis. Rose Omamo.  Country Program Officer for East and Horn of Africa Sis. Marggie Peters-Mukhika represented solidarity Center.

The Informal Workers associations were represented as by officials from  Nairobi Informal Sector Confederation (NISCOF), Muthurwa cleaners association,  Grogon Ngara Food Vendors Association, Muthurwa Food Court Vendors Association,  Migingo Mechanics Self Help Group and Ambira Jua Kali Association. 

There was an emphasis on importance of observing Occupational Health and safety measures to reduce new COVID_19 infections at workplaces. Personal Protective Equipments provided include KN95 face masks 4,000, Hand washing liquid soap 620 litres, Disposable surgical hand gloves 2,000, Industrial hand gloves 100,  Hand sanitizers 175,000 ML, Soap Containers 100 and Thermoguns 9. 

Safe work Places 



the International Labour Organization workers Bureau ILO -Actrav today hosted a webinar on Tackling the Covid -19 pandemic, Climate Disasters and Locust Plague In East Africa where COTU(K) was represented by Bro Benson Okwaro who indicated that the storm is not over and COTU (K) and affiliate unions along with social partners working in solidarity to intervene and protect workers

Decent Work in Covid- 19 Period

The central Organization of Trade Unions in Kenya COTU (K) estimates that more than  300, 000 formal jobs have so far been lost with more lined up for the chopping board due to economic and social crisis brought about by Covid-19.

COTU (K) has run initiatives such as COTU CARES to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 on workers.

Further, Dr Francis Atwoli the Secretary General of COTU (K) commends employers who have retained their employees in the wake of the corona virus pandemic which remains a global threat.

“I want to thank the employers who have kept workers in full employment despite the pandemic and those who have entered into separate agreements with respective unions to ensure no worker loses employment,” Dr Atwoli said

COTU (K) and Social partners Ministry of Labour and Social Protection and Federation of Kenya Employers, FKE signed a memorandum of Understanding that will see firms and companies retain employees during this trying period.

COTU (K) is devoted to promoting decent work and social justice by pursuing human and labour rights of Kenyan Workers.

In this Covid-19 period COTU (K) is working with social partners, the members and enterprises to enhance recovery, prosperity and progress in the post Covid -19 period.