SG Atwoli Speech during 111th Session of the ILC
COTU (K) takes this opportunity to congratulate the Director General following his appointment to steer
the activities of the ILO for the next five years and we remain confident that the Director General will help the organization to meet its constitutional mandate in contributing positively to the changing world of work.
COTU (K), equally, welcomes the Director-General’s report which focuses on advancing social justice through decent work. We share in the conviction that it is time to have an open but conclusive conversation on how to renew the social contract by forging a Global Coalition with, especially, other key actors like the multilateral system.
We recall that the aspiration for social justice through which workers can freely claim their fair share of the wealth that they have helped to generate on the basis of equality of opportunity remains great to date.
We therefore, must take urgent integrated inter- agency action based on a human-centered and rights based approach to address the current challenges which threaten our social cohesion, economic growth and progress.
COTU (K) agrees with the DGs report that the Decent work agenda provides the most appropriate framework for advancing social justice, although it is my considered opinion that if Decent Work Agenda has not achieved its desired results as witnessed in Kenya and the rest of African, we should now change the approach on the same.
The question to ask is whether all workers are facilitated to exercise their free will in accessing the opportunities they would wish for and in participating in the distribution of gains of their labour.
As shown by the evidence in the report, there are weaknesses in the functioning of Industrial Relations’ Practice.
In Kenya, for example, social dialogue institutions including the National Labour Board and the Wages Councils have often remained inactive owing to governance and funding challenges but we are however encouraged by the recent action by the new administration to gazette the new members on the Board.
We however look forward to the provision of adequate budgetary allocation by government.
COTU (K) is also concerned with the declining number of workers who are covered by CBAs due to rampant exploitation by employers that suggests the ILO has failed to tackle and close the exploitative routes by global employers and governments like outsourcing, casualization and poor contracts which are part of indirect slavery practices.
As pointed out in the report, only around one-third of the global workforce is covered by collective bargaining implying that a large majority falls outside representation. We hope and trust that the ILO will come up with a way forward on the same.
However, there are also instances where government institutions have undermined the ability of workers and employers’ organizations to freely and independently engage in collective bargaining. For us, in Kenya, we wish to call upon the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to desist from interfering with processes of collective bargaining agreements and interfering with free and independent Collective Bargaining as enshrined in the ILO Convention 98.
Further, we also want to encourage employers and particularly multinational enterprises operating in the key economic sectors employing large number of workers to invest more in social dialogue.
Facilitating workers to transition through technological changes through skills provision and life-long learning approaches cannot be ignored. In this regard we urge Multinational Companies operating in the Agricultural Sector of our economy in Kenya including the Tea sector to dialogue with workers with a view to finding sustainable ways of doing business without compromising workers’ rights.
It is our role as constituents working with the ILO to provide the required normative standards to guarantee social justice. This coincides with the call for the renewal of the social contract anchored on human rights as proposed by UN secretary General in his report of “Our Common Agenda” and a global coalition for social justice therefore must be put in place as this will address all sectors of our economic activities.
I thank you.