On behalf of the Central Organization of Trade Unions, COTU (K), as Presidentof the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and Vice President of the International Trade Union Confederation – Brussels (ITUC Brussels), this morning I held discussions with the International Labour Organization (ILO) Director General Guy Ryder over the decision by the Kenya Government to deny the Kenyan teachers their lawfully earned pay increase as well as the continued intimidation and harassment of the countries labour movement by the latter.
The meeting comes soon after my address to the ILO plenary in my capacity as a member of the ILO Governing Body during which I appealed to the Director General of the ILO which is a United Nations agency to intervene in Industrial Relations dispute mechanism in Kenya where the government has blatantly refused to enter into dialogue with the two teachers unions namely, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) against the ILO ratified convention 87 and 98 both on Collective Bargaining and freedom of association which is also reflected in Article 41 of the Kenya’s national promulgated Constitution.
Particularly, a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is a constitutional right to workers and I informed the Director General that COTU (K) has tried on several occasions to intervene in order to bring understanding between the two teachers union and the government but unfortunately the government has refused to listen to COTU (K) on industrial peace between the two unions on one hand and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the government on the other hand.
It is against this background therefore that my meeting with the Director General this morning was necessitated within an appeal to the ILO to use its international mechanisms and make the Kenya government recognize the enormous industrial relations statutes mechanism that are in law and practice.
Earlier in a meeting convened by the ITUC – Brussels General Secretary Sharan Burrow and attended by all Members of the ILO Governing Body representing various countries in the world I took the members present into a step-by-step happenings in Kenya’s Labour Movement detailing how the teaching fraternity has and continue to agonize over a case they won at the Labour and Employment Relations Court of a 50-60% pay rise.
The Kenya government blatantly said it won’t pay and never will it honor the Court award nor even enter into any negotiations with the teachers’ Unions where one of them, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers, KUPPET is a COTU (K) affiliate.
I went a notch higher to inform the members that this situation prompted teachers to go on a 5-weeks’ strike and in the process the Kenya government forced the teachers employer, TSC to go to Court and Appeal against the award that they lost both in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.Due to the growing pressure from the government, the matter went back to the Court of Appeal and in this process, the Kenya government interfered with our hitherto Independent Courts prompting one of the lawyers representing teachers to pull out of the case over intimidation and coercion. That government machinery made the teaching fraternity to eventuallylose the 50-60% wage increase after the Appeal Court overturned and set it aside.
I also emphasized and informed the world leaders present on the urgent need for the ITUC- Brussels to intervene in the Kenyan situation since the government has continued to renege from the principles of tripartism of which the Kenya Government, workers and employers have enjoyed since independence.
These includes for instance, since June 2015, International Labour Organization, ILO Conference in Geneva, itself a United Nation’s urgency, as well as the earlier March 2015 meeting of the African Union on Labour and Social Affairs Commission meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia which is also a tripartite body funded by the Kenya government for employers and workers attendance, the Kenya government has refused to extend such support and funding as per the ILO Constitution and this has forced both the Kenyan employers and workers to use own resource to attend such meeting both in Geneva and Addis Ababa.
Equally, the Kenya government has refused to reimburse those expenses despite several reminders when it is the prime duty of the government and requirement within our statutes that governments must fund the participation of tripartite delegations to the meetings.
This alludes to the open and outright attack by the government on the county’s labour movement and Mr. Atwoli appealed to the International Community to urgently intervene and rectify this serious situation before degenerating into a likely chaotic relationship.
At the same time, this is the first time that the Kenya government minister for Labour since independence, failed to represent the government at theILOmeeting in Geneva as well as at this year’s African Union Labour and Social Affairs Commission meeting in Addis Ababa as well as in various regional meetings where the country’s Minister in charge of Labour has been consistent in not attending.
This depicts a gloomy picture on the International Labour and Industrial Relations Practice and it is a serious worrying trend since the Minister for Labour was expected to address the ongoing ILO Governing Body meeting in Geneva and the information available indicate that she declined to represent the country, a move that puts Kenya to the list of the African failed States.
Francis Atwoli, EBS, MBS