The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli on Monday accused senior editors at Nation Media Group's Daily Nation of blackmail following a story that narrated an alleged collapse of trade unions in the country.
In a statement, without providing evidence, the trade unionist claimed the media giant's editors were resorting to publishing stories that paint organisations in a bad light as part of a blackmail scheme.
Atwoli, through COTU, has written to the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and the Kenya Editors Guild to take action against the media house.
“As COTU (K) we are calling upon the Media Council of Kenya and the Kenya Editor Guild to rein 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,” Atwoli stated amidst the alleged blackmail.
"COTU (K) shall continue representing the interest of Kenyan Workers and not of a few senior editors in newsrooms."
Atwoli's reactions follow the publishing of a story titled "Death of trade unions" as a lead for Monday with the vocal trade unionist's image plastered alongside the headline accusing trade unions of abandoning Kenyan workers.
The story accused trade unions of losing their spark despite wielding enormous power with their sizeable constituency, countrywide structures and potential to mobilise members on social or political matters.
The publication pointed out the dropping numbers of workers attending Labour Day as part of the unions' waning influence.
According to the paper, the 2023 Labour Day celebrations recorded the lowest turnout in history with many workers remaining indoors, a sign of a vote of no confidence in the current unions.
According to Atwoli, the headline was misleading and, part of a broader "trend of irresponsible and reckless journalism in Kenya".
“COTU (K) is the second largest trade union in Africa and consequently continues effectively representing workers locally and internationally,” Atwoli remarked.
He added that in protecting the interests of workers, COTU (K) believes in the principles of social dialogue, tripartite, and peaceful conflict resolution.
As such, he explained the role of COTU is to engage constructively with the government, employers, and other key players to advance the rights and interests of workers.
Atwoli in the past reiterated that COTU (K) would not advise its members to take part in demonstrations calling for lowering of cost of living.
Arguing his case, Atwoli remarked that the majority of COTU’s 4 million members cannot afford to lose a day’s wage.