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How labour relations will impact Big Four agenda

Francis Atwoli

The Big Four Agenda must be built on the pillar of harmonious labour relations. It is the workers who will deliver each step of development towards attaining what we envision as a country.

Social partners and the Labour ministry must play their role not only to create employment opportunities but also ensure decent jobs.

In his last year’s Jamhuri Day speech, President Uhuru Kenyatta emphasised the central role of labour relations in achieving food security, affordable housing, manufacturing and affordable healthcare, which are the key pillars of his second term in office.

“Let me emphasise that political stability and harmonious labour relations are the bedrock on which we will achieve a robust manufacturing sector,” said the President. What does it take to have “harmonious labour relations”? First, the right to exercise freedom of association.

The right to exercise freedom of association is enshrined in Article 36 of the Constitution. This covers the right to form trade unions and employers associations.

This includes protection of workers and their trade union leaders as well as employers through their associations and representatives. However this should not be room for multiplicity of unions. This entails strong movements and large numbers of workers who have representative.

Multiplicity will weaken the existing unions and lower their capacity for negotiations. As we move towards achieving the Big Four agenda, lets move towards empowering our trade unions and their umbrella body Cotu (K) through capacity building and representation in government decision making institutions.

Further, let us appreciate of the achievements we have made in creating a strong tripatism movement between the Government, the employers and the workers.

It is time to add community to include all other social partners such as religious institutions and move towards a harmonious relationship.

Second, conducive working conditions/Occupational Safety and Health (OSH). The implementation of Occupational Safety and Health Act of 2007 is critical in order for us to achieve safety at workplaces.

The improvement of the working condition of workers should be a top priority. This is can be manifested in the reduction in work-related accidents, improvement in the work methods and the recognition of workers’ rights, according to OSH legal instruments, which is a multidisciplinary field, concerned with safety, health and welfare of working people.

OSH is a vital element in a working environment that ensures there is limited or no workplace accident, injuries or deaths and that is only achieved through following the stipulated OSH laws.

We have to identify and intervene in areas of vulnerability such as vulnerable industries that are prone to occupational hazards such as lack of proper personal protective equipment, poor infrastructure and any other condition that is likely to cause accidents. Third, social dialogue.

Social partners must come together and address labour matters on time and with fewer disruptions. This will protect every Kenyan and grow our economy. Lack of dialogue will result in strikes and low wages workers, losses for employers and lack of services and goods for citizen.

Social dialogue will set the right parameters to comprehensively cover all areas of conflict and shield the Big Four agenda while taking care of interest of all social partners.

These among other factors will improve labour relations and help the country to achieve its development agenda and put Kenya on the path of transformation into an industrialised middle-income country promising high quality of life to all the citizens.

The success of these four sectors also depends on the goodwill of county governments. If the Big Four are to succeed, county governments must buy into the idea.

Under the sub sectors the Big Four recognise the following agro-processing, leather and textile, blue economy. As part of the Big Four, coffee processing, meat, fruits and vegetables will be processed locally. If the Big Four are, therefore, not supported by county governments, there will be lower than expected development.

As we move towards the Big Four agenda, implementation must be able to directly resolve unemployment and poverty which are a big challenge.

Harmonious labour relations will enhance unity and Big Four agenda will be easily realised, while disputes or differences are ferried to a common ground where amicable understanding will be reached with no or less damages inflicted. —The writer is the secretary general Cotu (K)

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