Speech by Bro. Atwoli, During Opening of the ITUC Wage Floor Forum
REMARKS BY BRO. FRANCIS ATWOLI, NOM (DZA), EBS, MBS COTU (K) SECRETARY GENERAL
DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE WAGE FLOOR FORUM,
AFRICA AT THE SAROVA STANLEY HOTEL, NAIROBI
ON 17-18 AUGUST, 2017
- The General Secretary ITUC Brussels, Sis Sharan Burrow
- The Deputy General Secretary, ITUC Brussels, Bro. Wellington Chibebe
- The General Secretary, ITUC Africa Bro KwasiAdu-Amankwa
- The President of ITUC-Africa Bro. Mody Guiro
- The Chairman, EATUC Bro. Eric Manzi
- Trade Union colleagues representing their National Centres present
- COTU (K) Executive Board Members and General Secretaries present
Brothers and sisters,
It gives me great pleasure to formally welcome all of you particularly our guests from outside to this important Forum on Wage Floor here in our capital City of Nairobi being the first time in a decade that COTU (K) is hosting such a high level Forum bringing together top trade union leaders globally lead by none other than our General Secretary for the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC Brussels Sis. Sharan Burrow and this being her first time in Kenya.
Equally as an Organisation, COTU(K) prides much in hosting this Forum because as a Workers’ right Organisation in the Country, we have remained consistent and steadfast in our fight for Minimum Wage setting and review annually for our members especially those not covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs).
As workers we all know that having a minimum wage opens up Collecting Bargaining for those not in the Unions’ Collecting Bargaining bracket and am certain and sure that since we took over COTU (K) leadership sixteen years ago in 2001, we have fiercely fought with government to make sure that Minimum Wage goes up yearly and cumulatively we have achieved a 140% increase and compared with our colleagues and similar workers’ organizations worldwide, I believe COTU (K) remains leaders in the fight for Minimum Wage setting.
This has continued to improve and agitate our COTU (K) affiliates to continuously improve our members’ CBAs who now currently earn considerably higher wages.
Brothers and Sisters, the widely believed concept by some employers and governments that higher levels of Minimum Wage increase unemployment has since been disapproved and research now shows that actually Minimum Wage setting increases Employment and Productivity and therefore lead to increased Economic growth hence more chances of creating employment for our young men and women.
For instance here in Kenya, COTU(K) has managed to fight off stiff opposition from a section of Employers who incite government against Minimum Wage increase under flimsy believes that wage increase must be pegged on productivity when it is the other way round that a well-paid worker is more productive than a poorly remunerated employee.
Indeed this year, we must thank our government that after formal tripartite negotiations through the General wages Council meetings failed to yield any increase for workers, a one-on-one between myself, the President, Minister for Labour and a representative from the Ministry of Fiancne saw the President increase our Minimum wage by 18%.
This is the highest increment from the previous years where the highest ever recorded was 14% in 2015 and in addition this year, the President directed for the removal of all taxations on overtime, retirement benefits as well as on bonuses to our members who earn up-to Kshs. 100,000 (USD. 1000) and if this is anything to go by, it remains a huge success in our Collective Bargaining history as far as Minimum Wage earnings are concerned.
To this end, l wish to commend the Netherlands based Wage Indicator Foundation for the Wage Indicator Project that we have jointly run over the years recording huge impact in terms of Minimum Wage monitoring, effects and outcomes to our affiliates who are now in a position to monitor and focus on the erosion of purchasing power of our members and appropriately advise.
Through this engagement, COTU (K) has been able to Organize debates among our Social Partners that have turned out to be one of the most popular offline tools in combination with Decent Work Agenda leading to increased visibility of Trade Unionism pressure onEmployers translating into increased membership and earnings.
No doubt in my mind this Forum will provide yet another platform through which we can build on as Trade Unions and Industrial Relations Practitioners on this Continent of Africa and beyond and this must be based on research findingsthat our experts from various departments of economic and research in our centres have time and again provided to trade union political leadership.
With those few remarks, I once again welcome you all to this beautiful city of Nairobi for the two busy days you will be with us here and equally urge you colleagues that let us not allow the trade union movement be weak on the continent of Africa because of our laxity, non-transparency, non-accountability to our membership and poor management of trade union meager funds that we receive from our toiling poor members.
Thank you as I now officially declare this Forum opened.