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January 20, 2019

Bill gives Labour CS more powers during strike

Majority Leader Aden Duale. /FILE
Majority Leader Aden Duale. /FILE

Cabinet Secretary for Labour and Social Security could soon have powers to limit the number of workers who could go on strike without consulting unions.

This is through proposed amendments to the labour relations act under the miscellaneous amendment bill No.12 of 2018 introduced to the national assembly in April, sponsored by majority leader Aden Duale and is on its first reading.

According to the amendment, labour CS will be obligated with power to declare any public service sector “essential service” to prevent total crippling of services to the public in case of a strike.

“The cabinet secretary will have power to declare any sector in public employment an essential service during a prolonged strike,” a section of the bill reads.

The Labor relations act defines essential service as services which if interrupted would endanger the life of a person or health of the population.

Read: A striking nation: Will 2018 be different?

If passed, unions will be compelled to indicate the type of services that must continue during the strike action, which shall be defined by the job function and not individual employees.

Unions will also be required to enter into an agreement with the employer over the minimum number of employees to continue working during the strike action.

The bill also requires union to call out its members for a strike action, a threshold of three quarters of fully paid up members should have signed in support.

According to Kenya union of post primary education teachers, deputy secretary general Moses Nturima, amendments to the Labor relations act contravene the correct procedures of amendments.

“In good faith, such critical statutory amendment that touches on the very core of human rights, would have, ordinarily, been brought through a substantive parliamentary motion to make it available for public participation,” Nturima said.

Kenya national union of teachers secretary general Wilson Sossion yesterday told the Star that the bill is primitive and one that infringes into the right of workers and violates the constitution.

“The bill contravenes fundamental guidelines of the constitution that need to be in place to protect workers, we hope amendments will be made to the bill before it is passed,” Sossion said.

This Bill proposes penal consequences against union leaders in the event of failure to comply with the said requirements.

In the past 18 months, the doctors, nurses and lecturers engaged in strikes with the shortest going for over 50 days paralysing services in hospitals and varsities.

Read: Teachers’ strike still on, issues persist — Sossion

More: COTU threatens countrywide protest over 'exorbitant fuel levy'

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