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Published on July 7th, 2017 | by KNUN



7TH JULY 2017

Labour relations in Kenya have evolved over the years to become the best institutionalized labour market governance system in Africa. Labour relations are anchored within labour laws regulated by constitutional rights, statutory rights, rights set by collective agreements and individual labour contracts.

However, even with the legal and regulatory framework, the labour sector in Kenya has not been without struggles. The recent industrial actions by nurses, doctors and teachers and the subsequent responses by their employers and the judiciary, bring to the fore the need to re-examine the labour struggles in particular the right to strike and its implication on access to fundamental human rights.

On 5thth July 2017, KNUN officials led by Acting General Secretary Mr. Maurice Opetu, National Treasurer Ms Agnes Munderu and Machakos Branch secretary Ms Halima Adan Yusuf attended labour rights conference which was held at Alliance FranA�ais-Nairobi. The conference was organised by Kenya Human Rights Commission to reflect on the contemporary struggles in the labour sector in Kenya. Besides KNUN, there were KNUT, KUPPET, UASU, KMPDU, FKE, COG, LSK, Ministry of Labour, Registrar of political parties, Civil society organizations, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, Funding Partners among others who attended the conference

Objectives of the conference were among other things:
a�? To provide a platform for players in the labour sector to reflect and share experiences and their implication on access to fundamental human rights.
a�? To identify practical ways through which to actualize and protect the right to organise and to collective bargaining.
a�? To interrogate the role of the executive and the judiciary in promoting goodwill in social dialogue and protecting the right to strike.
a�? To generate key issues for advocacy for advancement of labour rights in Kenya.
a�? To provide the much needed impetus to rally together and galvanize the labour rights sector in Kenya.

Presentations were made by various groups on how to form and sustain the unions, how to handle and sustain strikes, how to tame compromised union leaders and challenges of CBA among others. Some of the emerging challenges that affected the nurses included the following:
1. Lack of good will from the National and County governments a�� It had been noted that whenever government comes to the negotiation table, they come with conditions, threats, ultimatum etc. The judiciary also applied the rule of law selectively by jailing top union leadership and giving waivers to state officers whenever faced with similar culpability.
2. Lack of Solidarity Network – The idea is to embrace socialism where people make collective decisions as to what the directions of the social and economic progress should be, and then empower their representatives to implement them. Socialists have an easy way to link with other labour movements, civil organizations, religious leaders and other community members who would support a noble cause like advocating for labour and human rights.
3. Compromised union leaders and internal competition among officials a�� This was found to be a major hindrance in labour movements as it brings about misrepresentations and confusion in the union thereby misplacing ideologies. Continuous fights within the union were found to be unhealthy for both members and officials.
4. Inadequate capacity in the Public Sectors a�� The Ministry of Labour and Registrar of Trade Unions were cited in this case as having failed in promoting labour rights as required because corruption would be traced to their inner roots. Ministry of labour have failed to recognize nursesa�� rights to fair remunerations and allocation for allowances. Registrar of trade unions on the other hand have been accused of accepting bribes so as not to register a union, register many Unions with similar ideologies that would render the already existing trade unions valueless or deregister an already existing union citing lack of proper records and fake registration certificates. A union derives its strength from numbers and not names.
5. Freedom of association being undermined by the law a�� Judiciary was a case of study as it is notorious of applying the rule of law selectively. It was regrettable that no court has ever declared a strike as a legal right but instead has continued to issue orders. According to the Judiciary, every strike called upon by the union is illegal and the union top leadership risk being sentenced to a jail term should they disobey court orders to call off the strike whereas their counterparts in the state office would receive waivers or prolonged hearing dates that finally would be thrown out for lack of evidence. An example is the case of Doctors who were recently sent to jail.

After discussions with several stakeholders, there were notable ways to curb the challenges as highlighted below. There was need to:
1. Establish links between civil societies and labour movements as this would flex the muscle and bring the sector down in a day or two, and that is liberation.
2. There was also need to document the struggles and achievements of labour movements. A case in study was the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacist and Dentists Union (KMPDU) who did a documentary of their struggles and achievements which gave the public an insight of what they have gone through to be where they are now.
3. Promote capacity building and technical expertise as tools to sensitize the workers on their rights and CBA negotiations – in this case KNUT was cited as setting the presidency since ita��s been in existence for a long period, it has huge membership and it has negotiated several CBAs.
4. Need for unionists to actively engage in policy making in the legislative. And in this case a question was asked about unionists becoming aristocrats after joining politics. This was well handled by the moderator who noted that for union to realise growth and sustainability, they need friends, resources and expertise which are all achievable in politics and solidarity networks. So members of unions were encouraged to participate in politics in order to promote their social ideologies.
5. Create and be members of different forums and explore the social media by remaining active and relevant to their cause. Social media like Tweeter, Facebook, Instargram, Whats app and Linkedin were found to be the current and the fastest means to rich a wider coverage and create awareness to the public.

All trade unions and unionists that participated in the conference agreed that SRC was a rogue Commission being used by the government to kill the free will of negotiations between employees and employers in the public sector. They also advocated for the disbandment of SRC.

In addition to the above, KNUN, through their Branch secretaries are reminded to take county demonstrations matter with seriousness it deserves. It is regrettable that this week, less than ten counties demonstrated with more than forty yet to begin their demonstrations. Unity is paramount in this noble cause and for us to win this war, solidarity must be embraced. Therefore, there is need to intensify the demos to pass the message to the government that the clarion for signing the CBA was on.

Any challenges faced by a given county should be forwarded to the relevant forums i.e NGC, and The Summit.

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