Atwoli responds to reports on death of trade unions

Monday, September 18th, 2023 14:39 | By
COTU Sec Gen Francis Atwoli
COTU Sec Gen Francis Atwoli PHOTO/Courtesy

The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has responded to a report that trade unions in Kenya are on their deathbed.

The report by a local daily indicated the inability of trade unions to negotiate with employers on behalf of their members, which has resulted in employees reneging on Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs), some dating back almost a decade.

However, Atwoli termed the report as misleading, and part of a broader trend of "irresponsible and reckless journalism in Kenya".

"As COTU (K) we are calling upon the Media Council of Kenya and the Kenya Editor Guild to reign in on the rogue senior newspaper editors who continue blackmailing organizations and individuals through misleading stories that sell terror and fear when their demands are not met. COTU (K) shall continue representing the interest of Kenyan Workers and not of a few senior editors in newsrooms," Atwoli stated.

He said that currently, COTU is the second-largest trade union in Africa with over four million members, advancing the interests of its members.

He says that the union has chosen the path of social dialogue, tripartism and peaceful conflict resolution instead of the signature strikes witnessed in the 1990s and early 2000s.

"We recognize that our role as a responsible trade union is to engage constructively with the government, employers, and other key players to advance the rights and interests of workers," he added.

"Since the promulgation of the 2010 constitution which has promoted harmonious industrial relations in Kenya, COTU (K)’s stance has always been clear:  We advocate for tripartite consultations and meaningful negotiations as the preferred avenues for addressing workers' concerns, rather than resorting to strikes and demonstrations that can disrupt the economy and harm our members."

In the report by a local daily, Atwoli was quoted claiming that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) is a stumbling block in the negotiation of workers' interests.

"Where we have some problems is with SRC. SRC is an amorphous organisation because globally, issues of negotiations are between employer and a worker, a third party should only be the employment and labour relations court, but no other person can come in between," Atwoli said as quoted by the paper.

Atwoli on strikes

He says that currently, COTU, which is an umbrella body for trade unions in Kenya, is advocating for dialogue between employers and employees instead of strikes.

"Our position is grounded in the understanding that Kenya is currently facing significant economic challenges. In these trying times, it is imperative that we collectively work towards stabilizing the economy, preserving jobs, and creating an environment conducive to sustainable economic growth," he added.

In the recent past, several trade unions such as the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) have lost their influence, with the union having lost 78 per cent of its members between 2019 and 2020.

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