Cotu Sec Gen Atwoli Reveals Uhuru's Plan for Kenyans on Labour Day

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with COTU boss Francis Atwoli at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, during Labour Day celebrations on May 1, 2017
    President Uhuru Kenyatta (right) with COTU boss Francis Atwoli at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, during Labour Day celebrations on May 1, 2017
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  • The 2020 Labour Day comes at a time when the country is facing a pandemic which has seen firms shut down, employer-employee wrangles escalate and the economy faces a risk of a shrinking.

    With employees sent on unpaid leaves coupled with layoffs, Central Organisation Trade Union Secretary-General Francis Atwoli stated that the most imperative issue President Uhuru Kenyatta would address on Labour Day would be the massive job losses witnessed since Coronavirus broke out in Kenya.

    Atwoli discussed the plans while speaking with KTN News on Thursday, April 30, after inviting Kenyatta as the chief guest for the Friday, May 1 celebrations. 

    Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology where he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree on December 14, 2018.
    Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli at the Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology where he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree on December 14, 2018.
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    "As workers union, we lead over four million workers in Kenya and we will be delivering our speech from Solidarity Building. The other area we will touch are collective bargaining agreements and how we will sustain workers in employment and what has happened. 

    "Some of the agreements we have signed between us employers and government that no employer should victimise or declare worker redundancy because of this pandemic. We do recognise that after Coronavirus, we need to protect our economy and who will do that, if not our workers? The government should recognise role workers and employers do," Atwoli proclaimed. 

    However, reports indicated that President Uhuru Kenyatta, who had accepted an invitation as the chief guest would not be at Solidarity Building, and the event may be shifted to State House instead.

    It is anticipated that Kenyatta would reiterate Atwoli's remarks and rally employers to retain their employees amid the pandemic.

    In an interview with journalists, Atwoli further revealed that COTU had signed an agreement with the government and the private sector to have them (government and private sector) continue remitting statutory deductions, including NHIF and NSSF to allow workers who are on leave to access medical care, and also addressed how employees are forcing compulsory pay cuts on employees.

    "Any employer effecting pay cuts is committing an illegality. We expect this not to happen. In this case, therefore, all employees, unionisable and those not in unions, should continue getting their dues as set out in their collective bargaining agreements," he proclaimed.

    Federation of Kenya Employers Chief Executive Jacqueline Mugo also indicated that her agency was pushing for better measures to safeguard employees, as a report by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection indicated that the pandemic has already rendered 133,657 Kenyans jobless in over 50 days. 

    "Labour Day will not be about wage increases as we are all focused on fighting to protect jobs and our businesses so that after the pandemic, we can resume jobs normally.

    "We plan to sign an agreement as labour leaders of COTU, FKE and Ministry of Labour to protect jobs, enterprises and need for social dialogue. We will be asking the government to come up with more measures," Mugo disclosed in a report aired by KTN News

    The day will also be used to celebrate front line health workers who are key in Kenya's fight against Coronavirus. 

    "This Labour Day, we celebrate you, our health workers for risking your lives to save us from Covid-19. We are alive because you are fighting for us. You have been equal to the task, proving the world wrong. We also celebrate everyone’s labour; farmers, delivery guys, garbage collectors, name it. We have reason to agree all labourers are essential and deserve dignity and respect," African Union envoy Raila Odinga led the plaudits on Friday morning, May 1.

    Several other key issues Kenyans hope will be considered are rent and food provision, as thousands of Kenyans lie jobless at home with no means to provide basic needs. 

    File image of Federation of Kenya Employers Chief Executive Jacqueline Mugo
    File image of Federation of Kenya Employers Chief Executive Jacqueline Mugo
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