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