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Atwoli, Knut reject State bid to amend labour laws

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) have opposed the proposal by the government to amend the Labour Relations and Employment Acts.

Speaking during the Labour Day prayer service at St Stephen’s Cathedral, Jogoo Road in Nairobi yesterday, Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli said workers are opposed to the amendment as it would infringe on their rights.

The proposals contained in government-sponsored Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2018 introduce an amendment to the Labour Relations Act 2007 which if adopted will safeguard provision of essential services during strike.

But Atwoli termed unconstitutional the proposed changes on claims that they curtail workers’ rights to go on industrial action, demand for better pay and restrict them from engaging in Collective Bargaining Agreements. “As a union that defends the rights of workers, we will not allow the proposed amendment to the labour laws.

The proposed amendment currently before Parliament is illegal, colonial and archaic and workers are opposed to it,” he said. Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion said the amendment contravene Section 41 of the Constitution as it “attacks the rights of workers”. He added that the process lacks public participation.

The two unionists also declared they would fight the removal of labour union leaders from the National Social Security (NSSF) and National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) board as their removal will hinder them from defending the workers’ interests.

However, Labour Cabinet secretary Ukur Yattani defended the proposed amendment, saying the changes are in the interest of the general public. Crucial services The bill seeks to ensure that during industrial actions, providers of essential services are mandated to undertake level of responsibilities.

It targets sectors providing crucial services such as electricity, water, sanitation, telecommunications, fire-fighting, air navigators, health, fuel distributors and port workers.

Yattani urged Atwoli and Sossion to be alive to Kenyans sufferings during strikes. “The legislation is within societal context as it balances the needs of both the workers and the public. Cotu and Knut should stop favouring one segment of the society,” he said.

The CS clarified that the law does not declare strikes illegal but pushes for a 21-day strike notice to give the government time to engage the aggrieved parties.

“We can’t favour workers alone and forget the grave effects of their actions to the public,” he added. Meanwhile, Atwoli lauded the unity pact between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, saying it was the only way to heal the nation.

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