Why COTU (K) is opposed to the NHIF Amendment Bill.

President Moi left us with a functioning health system and a highly effective education system. It is sad that over the years, these two most important institutions in our society have been downgraded to deplorable and sorry status.  

In 2012, whilst representing workers in the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) board, I strongly opposed the implementation of the new membership contribution rates with a view that as constituted then, the NHIF did not have the capacity to manage such huge funds coming with increased contributions and equally, the then Cabinet Secretary for Health was all over the NHIF micro-managing the Fund as if was just a department under the Ministry.

At the same time I cited that prior to the implementation of the new rates, NHIF did not engage COTU-K as the umbrella workers body in the country in order to get their views.  

In 2013, I made good my threat that I would resign if the government approved the new fees payable to NHIF without due diligence and accountable management. Time has, indeed, absolved me. The NHIF fund has since been struggling to meet its obligations to workers. Workers have lost millions under the fund due to a lack of accountability. This Fund, meant to assist workers to cover their medical expenses, has over time been converted into a cash cow where politicians exploit these funds for personal and luxuries use.

Moreover, card-holding members of NHIF have been, times without number, denied services by hospitals considering NHIF has not been remitting payments to hospitals for services offered even though such members have been religiously contributing to the fund.   

Just recently, the Majority Leader of the National Assembly, Hon. Amos Kimunya, introduced the National Hospital Insurance Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2021 into the floor of parliament that seeks to not only amend NHIF Act No. 9 of 1998 but also disband, in total, the NHIF as we know it.

COTU and all its 45 Affiliate Unions, and by extension the over 4 million COTU members, strongly oppose the amendments as contained in the NHIF amendment bill, in totality. Here’s why.

NHIF was established by workers and formalized under Cap 255 of the Laws of Kenya in 1966 as a department in the Ministry of Health to provide health insurance exclusively for those in formal employment. Therefore, the core mandate of the fund is, and remains, to provide medical insurance cover to all its members (workers with an income) and their declared dependents; spouse and children.

On the contrary, the amendment bill seeks to change NHIF, as we know it, from a fund to a scheme and by and large changing the mandate and objective of the NHIF as it were previously. In essence, this amendment bill will disband NHIF and bring up an amorphous body with a new mandate and new objectives. This is against the wish of Kenyan workers who are the contributing members of NHIF.

This amendment mirrors the detested Affordable Care Act in the US which has been very disruptive to the health benefits of American workers and failed tremendously in times of Covid-19. Very soon, because of this bill, employers will stop providing health coverage to their employees just like in the US. On the contrary, NHIF, as it is, has the capability of mirroring the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. This explains why the UK has been able to contain the adverse effects of Covid-19 save for leadership. 

It is without question that the rationale behind the initiators and supporters of this Bill is full of ulterior motives considering the mandate of the NHIF should not be maximizing on the amounts they are collecting but it should be to effectively use the collected amounts. What is it that the Bill want NHIF to do with the money they are seeking to collect from any Kenyan above the age of 18 years that they have been unable to do with the money contributed by the over 8 million NHIF contributing members?

The bill also seeks to coerce Kenyans to contribute towards NHIF without assuring them reliable services and transparency in the fund. NHIF should not be obsessed with collecting more money but using the fund collected effectively. It is also wrong to use laws to coerced Kenyans to contribute to any scheme.

Additionally, the management of NHIF is yet to conduct any proper consultation and engagement to get views from both workers and employers as required by Convention 144 of the ILO on social dialogue. More seriously, COTU (K) is reliably informed that even the NHIF board did not have a meeting that discussed the NHIF amendment bill.  

It is, therefore, our position that NHIF should emphasize on accountability of the fund and the effective use of the same. We also demand that the government should stop any move aimed at interfering with the structure and the objective of NHIF and that if the government is in dire need of a scheme to offer universal health to the Kenyan citizenry, then let the Government create its separate healthcare scheme to provide affordable care to be used by the indigent and vulnerable persons.

Any attempts to disband the NHIF, as envisaged in the proposed amendments, will leave workers under the umbrella of COTU-K  with no other option but to move to court a seek order to annul any such attempts.  

 

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

Secretary General

Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya)

COTU (K) S.G meets designated delegates to the 109th International Labour Conference (ILC)

The Central Organization of Trade Unions, Kenya, COTU (K), Secretary General Bro. Dr Francis Atwoli this morning, at his Ildamat Home in Kajiado, hosted, designated delegates to the 109th International Labour Conference (ILC) which is scheduled to start on Thursday 20th May 2021 until 19th June 2021. The 109th Session of the (ILC) will, for the first time in its history, be held virtually, reflecting changes imposed by the COVID-19 crisis.

The Conference, which is often called an international parliament of labour, has several main tasks.

  • First, there is the crafting and adoption of international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations. Conventions are international treaties that, once adopted by the Conference, are open to ratification by member States. Ratification creates a legal obligation to apply the provisions of the Convention in question. Recommendations, on the other hand, are intended to guide national action, but are not open to ratification, and are not legally binding.
  • The Conference also supervises the application of Conventions and Recommendations at the national level. It examines the reports which the governments of all member States are required to submit, detailing their compliance with obligations arising out of ratified Conventions, and their law and practice in respect of Conventions and Recommendations (ratified or not) on which reports have been requested by the Governing Body of the ILO.
  • Since the adoption of the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998), another important function of the Conference is to examine the Global Report prepared by the Office under the follow-up procedure required by the Declaration. Over a four-year cycle, the Conference examines in turn Global Reports covering the four fundamental rights, namely: (a) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; (b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (c) the effective abolition of child labour; and (d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
  • The Conference is also a forum where social and labour questions of importance to the entire world are discussed freely – sometimes passionately. Delegates explore the course of social progress in the world, but the central theme is the report presented each year by the ILO’s Director-General. In recent years, these reports have addressed: Social insurance and social protection (1993), Defending values, promoting change: Social justice in a global economy (1994), Promoting employment (1995), The ILO, standard setting and globalization (1997), Decent Work (1999), Reducing the decent work deficit: A global challenge (2001) and A fair globalization: Creating opportunities for all (2004).
  • The Conference also passes resolutions that provide guidelines for the ILO’s general policy and future activities.

Additionally, every two years the Conference adopts the ILO’s biennial work programme and budget, which is financed by member States.

Bro. Dr. Atwoli, during the meeting, also witnessed nominations to the five committees of the conference and urged all those nominated to the different committees to dedicate their time and commitment in attending these virtual meetings without fail in order to contribute effectively to the outcome document of the conference.  

COTU (K)’s Secretary General Dr. Francis Atwoli Labour Day Message at State House Kenya, 2021.

  • Foremost Your Excellency let me take this opportunity to humbly and with humility thank you for according us this rare moment to be here with you on behalf of the Kenyan workers.
  • Your Excellency, allow me to specifically recognize and appreciate you for your tireless efforts in protecting the lives of Millions of Kenyans and at the same time ensuring that our economy remains sustainable during this turbulent times of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
  • The economic havoc wrecked by the COVID-19 Pandemic remains unprecedented and has left millions of workers with far much less to celebrate.
  • However, we should not despair and COTU (K) as the umbrella workers’ body in the country will work closely with your government to make sure that we steer our economy to very high heights in order to address the job loses that we have all witnessed as a result of Covid-19.
  • Equally, Your Excellency, we would like to thank your government and specifically the following ministries, namely, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government for providing an enabling environment for our organization and our Affiliates to conduct successful elections under these abnormalities.
  • Our special thanks go to Hon. Dr. Fred Matiang’i, Hon. Sen. Mutahi Kagwe as well as Hon. Simon Chelgui.

Labour Day

  • Labour Day has a unique history dating back to 1st May 1886 when trade unions in the United States of America decided to go on strike demanding that workers should not be allowed to work for more than 8 hours a day.
  • The strike was followed by a bomb blast in Chicago’s Haymarket Square popularly known as “Haymarket affair” on the 4th of May 1886 making May 1st to become one of the most significant dates in the workers’ history and was earmarked to celebrate and honour the contribution of working men and women.
  • These protests were instrumental in establishing the 8-hour work day in the world and since then, the 1st of May is celebrated as the International Labour Day in many counties across the world.
  • Here in Kenya, this history of Labour Day and by large the Labour Movement was equally not an easy one having evolved through difficult situations created mainly by the then colonial government which persistently defended employers in order to avoid seeing a strongly organized trade union of workers.
  • However, with the pressure mounting in the British colonies, there was a change of attitude by our colonial masters and this resulted in the enactment of the 1937 trade unions’ Ordinance in Kenya and the move led to the formation of various Unions in this country.
  • The situation continued to grow tense and Makhan Singh organized the Asian Railway Trade Union in which he openly associated himself with Africans despite the existence of colour and racial discrimination.
  • The situation grew from bad to worse and in 1947; a general strike of 15,000 out of the 20,000 workers in Mombasa was organized which left the entire city of Mombasa paralyzed and 400 people arrested.
  • The strike led by the late Chege Kibachia, who was leading the African Workers Federation that was later renamed the current Transport and Allied Workers Union and was also a close ally of the late Makhan Singh, it spread across the country and the crude efforts by government to contain the striking workers that ran from 13th to 25th January 1947, left three workers killed.
  • With the emergence of more unions, a national trade union center was formed called the Kenya Federation of Registered Trade Unions in 1952 with the late Aggrey Minya as the Secretary General and later became Kenya Federation of Labour, a precursor of the Central Organization of Trade Unions, COTU (K).
  • However, the 1952 declaration of a State of Emergence by the colonial government caused a great setback in the trade union movement considering near all its leaders in the labour movement were arrested and detained for allegedly being associated with Mau Mau.
  • Your Excellency, I must mention at this point that Africa, Asia and Latin America attained their independence through the struggle of Trade Unionists.
  • In our history Your Excellency, let me remember a few trade unionists who fought alongside our freedom fighters including our founding father of this Nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who was part of the Local Government Workers Union now the County Government Workers Union and those were Makhan Singh, Chege Kibachia, Aggrey Minya, Tom Joseph Mboya, Fred Kubai, Vicky Wachira, Ratib Hussein, Pio Gama Pinto, Ochola Ogaye Mark’Anyengo, Martin Shikuku, Clement Lubembe and Dennis Akumu were instrumental in attaining our independence.
  • Across Africa, trade unionist John Tetgar of Ghana, Ahmed Tilil of Tunisia, Paul Humphrey Lwande of Uganda, Rashid Kawawa of Tanzania, Abdoulaye Diallo of Guinea Conakry, Dempa Diop of Mali, Jay Naiduu and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa who is now the current President all fought for our Continent’s total independence through the trade union movement.
  • It was until 1963 that the founding father of our nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta declared this day 1st May to be celebrated as the international Labour Day together with the international community.

Measures taken by H.E on Covid-19

  • And even though we are living in unprecedented times, we are still proud of your Government Your Excellency for remaining alive to the plight of workers even in the wake of Covid-19.
  • I thank you, Your Excellency, and your Government for having made a budgetary allocation to the Agricultural Sector of our economy by supporting exporters both in the tea and floriculture industries where you made sure that first and foremost there is a provision for cargo space for their exports.
  • Secondly, were listed as essential service providers to enable them continue with business during this hard times of COVID-19 by accessing our Ports for export markets and finally employers had their V.A.T claims paid to support their efforts to keep workers in employment.

Tripartite partners & MoU

  • We call upon your government to continue supporting the social tripartite partners, namely, the Federation of Kenya Employers, COTU (K) and your government represented by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection.
  • Your Excellency, our success during this time of the Pandemic came when these organizations developed and signed a tripartite agreement under the chairmanship of the Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Protection Hon. Simeon Chelgui on 30th April 2020.
  • This Memorandum of Understanding, Your Excellency, provided for Job Security and assured worrying workers that those who might have been laid off during this pandemic period will not lose their employment when the situation returns to normal.

Corruption

  • Secondly, Your Excellency, don’t relent in your efforts in fighting corruption because:
  • It is through this vice that we have lost our forest cover hence attracting massive deforestation which has largely interfered with our environment.
  • It is through corruption that Kenyans cannot obtain strategic medicine and quality medical cover in our public hospitals.
  • It is through corruption that those charged with responsibilities of restructuring our cities cannot achieve their desired infrastructural development changes and keep out the menace of informal transport and hawkers in our international cities like elsewhere in the world.
  • It is through corruption that we lose so many people on our roads on daily basis because of allowing crowded and un-roadworthy vehicles that have also denied Kenyans the opportunity to have an organized public transport system in our cities. It is worth noting that Kenya is the only country in the world that lacks an organized public transport for workers and other Kenyans.
  • It is through corruption that our students have continued to be sold stolen examinations and answers and receiving fake degrees from our institutions of higher learning.
  • It is through corruption that we cannot attract both foreign and domestic investments in this country with the obsession of demanding a 10% or more on such investments.
  • Your Excellency, on our procurement systems right away from the County Governments to the National Government, this area has been infiltrated by unscrupulous people known as tenderpreneurs and for us to develop in this world of digital and e-commerce trade, we appeal to Your Excellency, not to get tired fighting this menace. Kenyan workers support you and they will continue to support you.
  • This, equally, reminds us that unless we support you to stop corruption, we will not take off as a Nation economically and development wise.

Development of Asian tigers

  • Your Excellency, I would like to remind you that in 1968 the founding father of our Nation Mzee Jomo Kenyatta gave a grant of USD 5 Million to the government of Malaysia since Kenya was far ahead in terms of its total GDP and its economic performance compared to the governments of Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and other Asian countries that have since overtaken us.
  • We hope and trust that in you, we can realize the dreams of our forefathers.

 

Constitutional change & BBI

  • Your Excellency, I cannot end my Speech without talking about Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), and let me on behalf of Kenyan workers inform you that at our recently concluded 14th COTU (K) Quinquennial Conference held at Tom Mboya Labour College on 9th April 2021, one of the Key resolutions made was that as Kenyan workers we will stand with the handshake team led by Your Excellency together with your Brother, The Right Honorable Prime Minister Raila Amolo Odinga in ensuring that one of the best legacy you can leave behind for Kenyans is a new Constitution that addresses the pertinent areas of our governance which normally causes hue and cry immediately after every general election and the recipients being workers, women and children.

 

Wage Increase

  • Lastly, on Wage increase, I am not asking for any wage increase in this abnormal situation, but I am appealing to employers through you Your Excellency to individually or collectively through the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) to meet their sectoral trade unions and make some minimum adjustments in their basic salary earnings together with other emoluments during these hard times of Covid-19.
  • Even yourself, Your Excellency, in whom we have known to be very sympathetic with every Kenyan and more so to workers cause in your own thinking without being pushed by anybody including myself, you are free to make some minimum adjustments to address the punctures and holes left in our pockets as a result of Covid-19.

New Safaricom CEO Dangerous for Workers’ Rights

It has come to our attention that Safaricom PLC is on a mission to restructure its mode of management whilst at the same time doing away with some of its employees. Even though, as COTU (K), we don’t have control over the management style employers adopt from time to time, we are highly concerned about the prospects of job security with the implementation of certain management styles.  

As reported in one of the local dailies today, the new CEO of Safaricom PLC Mr. Peter Ndegwa has caused a lot of anxiety among its more than 6,000 employees by asking a majority of them to reapply for their current jobs. This new move by the Safaricom CEO, which goes against ILO Conventions particularly on the protection of jobs, is not acceptable and remains an affront to workers’ rights.

It’s insensitive and inhuman, for Mr. Ndegwa, to bring about drastic changes at Safaricom PLC while infringing on the rights of workers who have built Safaricom to what it is today where it enjoys more than 30 million subscribers. It’s also shocking that even though Mr. Ndegwa is the first Kenyan Safaricom CEO, he remains the most dangerous CEO the company has ever had when it comes to protecting workers’ rights.

COTU (K) is also alive to the fact that Safaricom has refused several attempts to unionize their workers and that Mr. Ndegwa while serving as CEO for Guinness Nigeria PLC faced off with Unions from West Africa as he forcefully reduced the workforce by nearly 45%.

We, therefore, demand that Mr. Ndegwa stops forthwith causing anguish, despair and depression among its employees in his mission to maximize profit considering it’s the workers who build the reputation and capacity of a company to realize profits.

However, if Mr. Ndegwa doesn’t stop this forthwith, we appeal to the Board of Directors at Safaricom PLC, including other shareholders, to make sure that Mr. Ndegwa is relieved of his duties because of his poor managerial style that seeks to maximize profits at the expense of its employees.

Ends.

Yours sincerely

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

SECRETARY GENERAL

14TH QUINQUENNIAL CONFERENCE SECRETARY GENERAL’S REPORT

The state of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (Kenya), COTU (K), is strong. Since I and the team were elected took over office five years ago we have strived to keep the spirit and the aspirations of the Labour Movement, in Africa and the world, known and felt globally. I must admit, the past five years have been characterized by monumental challenges but through our spirit of solidarity, we have been able to surmount and stand strong for the Kenyan workers. This being my 54th year in the labour movement, I am proud to say that never before has the
labour movement in this country has been more revered, united,
and, its future is more promising.

Attached here is the full report for download

Dr. Francis Atwoli re-elected as COTU (K) Secretary General

Following the 14th quinquennial conference, that took place at the Tom Mboya Labour College in Kisumu, Dr. Francis Atwoli was re-elected unopposed as the Secretary General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions, Kenya, (COTU (K)) for the fifth time.

This conference which was attended by COTU (K) Affiliate Union General Secretaries physically and more than two hundred (200) members of the congress virtually resolved to grant Dr. Atwoli a fresh five-year mandate considering the work he has been doing for the Labour Movement not just in Kenya and Africa but globally.

The General Secretaries in attendance cited, for instance, the renovations currently ongoing at the Tom Mboya Labour College as a major milestone for enhancing the education of workers’ rights. Before the renovation and expansion of the college by Dr. Atwoli, the college sat on only 2.6 hectares. Currently, TMLC sits on about 7 hectares of land considering Dr. Atwoli through his own personal intervention recovered around 4 hectares of land, in February 2021, that had been grabbed from the college.

They also noted that over the past five years, the college has undergone tremendous change with the current COTU (K) leadership mobilizing more than Five Hundred Million shillings (500,000,000) for its renovation.

Further, some of the improvements that have gone into the college include, inter alia, replacing iron sheets at the Resource Center with a DECRA roofing, setting up perimeter wall around the college, covering all walkways, replacing old tiles in the buildings, setting up a modern state of the art conference facilities, setting up a cafeteria and modernizing the hotel facility.

This college has been generating revenue for COTU (K) over the past twenty (20) years considering it has been, over time, identified as one of the most conducive meeting and conference facility in the region and beyond.

Another key issue that stood out during the discussions around the re-election of Dr. Atwoli was how COTU (K) moved with speed to champion for workers’ rights and needs when Covid-19 pandemic struck.  

The delegates noted that the economic shock caused by this pandemic necessitated COTU (K), under the leadership of Dr. Atwoli, to provide food and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) to workers who had being laid off and those who were still working but needed these commodities. This provision was majorly done through programs such as the COTU CARES program.  

Added to that is the fact that it is within the Covid-19 pandemic period that the world of work took time to critically think about the Gig Economy (digital economy). Following a decision by the Supreme Court, reclassified about 70,000 UK Uber Drivers as workers thus making them entitled to a minimum wage of about Sh.1,300 per every hour of trips made, the delegates noted that the leadership of COTU (K), realizing that the next phase of our economic development is to formalize the informal sector which is estimated to have about 80% of Kenya’s total workforce, released a press statement informing the public of the need to have an urgent stakeholder’s engagement to redefinition who an employee is using new lenses because the current definition, as in the Employment and Act (2007), is obsolete.

In the same presser, the delegates noted that Dr. Atwoli, called for the reclassifying of more than 160,000 M-Pesa agents and about 26,000 Airtel Money agents as employees of Safaricom and Airtel, respectively, and also calling upon Parliament of Kenya to move with speed to legislate relevant laws affecting Kenyans in the gig economy.

Moreover, to cope with the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic, the delegates acknowledged that COTU (K) through the leadership of Dr. Atwoli facilitated Affiliate Unions to have a social dialogue with employers and develop interventions to protect workers. For example, Kenya Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union, KPAWU, entered into an MoU with the Agricultural Employers Association (AEA) on how to mitigate the situation amid the COVID-19 Pandemic. Also, unions in the Hotel and Hospitality industry entered into MoUs to help save jobs and cushion workers.  

Over and above that, on 30th April 2020, COTU (K) together with the Ministry of Labour and the Federation of Kenyan Employers (FKE) entered into an MoU aimed at protecting the workers from the economic shock occasioned by Covid-19 and also helping the government control the spread of Covid-19. As a result, many employers who were not able to meet their salary obligation and had employees who were unionized were advised to send their workers on unpaid leave, as we hoped for the situation to stabilize, instead of terminating their contracts.

The delegates also commended the action that COTU (K), together with the other social partners, also negotiated with the government to cushion workers from the economic shock around mid-2020. This saw the government resolve to, among other things, reduce the Value Added Tax (V.AT) from 16% to 14%, reduced the corporate income tax from 30% to 25%, fully exempt (100%) Pay As You Earn (P.A.Y.E) tax for those earning below Kshs. 24,000 and reduce P.A.Y.E to 25%. 

During this conference, the delegates also re-elected Bro. Rajabu Mwondi, Bro. Rev. Joel Chebii, Bro. Francis Murage, Bro. Benson Okwaro, Bro. Ernest Nadome, Sis. Carolyne Rutto, Sis. Rebecca Nyathogora, Bro. Wasington Adongo, Bro Francis Wangara, Bro. Joseph Nyabiya and Bro. Nelson Mwaniki. 

In his acceptance speech, the Secretary General of COTU (K) Dr. Francis Atwoli thanked the delegates and the Kenyan workers at large for trusting him with another mandate. He promised never to betray the trust that all workers have bestowed on him over the past years. He also pledged to continue supporting the Building Bridges Imitative for a more politically and economically stable Kenya.

Attached is the Quinquennial SG’s report for download COTU-report-1

 

Press Statement on the increased Fuel Prices: Stop irritating Kenyan workers

Yesterday, the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) increased the prices of super petrol by Sh.7.63 per litre, diesel by Sh.5.75 per litre, and kerosene by Sh.5.41 per litre. 

This came even after we had issued a warning earlier, through a press statement, strongly condemning the move by EPRA terming it as outrageous and insensitive. 

It would interest the public to know that it only costs Sh.49.84 to import a litre of petrol from the Middle East while an average Kenyan has to pay an extra Sh.73.97 for every litre of petrol purchased. These obnoxious and ridiculous amounts in taxes and levies paid by struggling Kenyan workers have been occasioned by the fact that parliament has failed to safeguard their interest even as primitive institutions like EPRA continue to punish workers without ceasing. 

Maybe unknown to EPRA, a change in fuel prices has a domino effect on the prices of consumer goods. COTU (K) would like to remind EPRA that it is fuel that is used in the manufacturing and production of goods consumed by every Kenyan household on daily basis. Therefore, the change of fuel prices willy-nilly by EPRA is not just downright contempt to the many Kenyans currently struggling and suffering, as a result of the harsh economic situation occasioned by Covid-19, but a move that might invite social unrest. 

Kenyans have suffered enough as a result of Covid-19 considering many lives and livelihoods have been destroyed and the last thing any sane government would want to do at such a time is to raise the cost of living. 

As COTU (K), we are DEMANDING that Parliament should URGENTLY ventilate this issue and save this otherwise beautiful country from the social unrest that might be occasioned by the change in fuel prices.

Secondly, COTU (K) requests that His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta, also, URGENTLY intervenes by either issuing a fiat suspending some of the taxes and levies on fuel or by calling EPRA to order. The President should call for the audit of the entire Ecosystem around the energy sector and save Kenyans from cartels that have hijacked the energy sector in Kenya. 

Yours sincerely

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

SECRETARY GENERAL

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.