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January 19, 2019

Cotu against MPs bid to limit right to strike

Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli speaking at a press conference yesterday.  /Monicah Mwangi
Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli speaking at a press conference yesterday. /Monicah Mwangi

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions yesterday opposed attempts by Parliament to amend labour law.

It said the move would take away workers’ fundamental rights.

The proposed amendment to the Labour Relations Act, 2007, by MP Kimani Ichungwa, provides for a fine of Sh500,000 or three months’ imprisonment of any union official, if the strike he or she has called disrupts the services listed as essential. 

It also require unions to report any dispute to the Labour CS and wait for 21 days before taking any action.

But Cotu secretary general Francis Atwoli (pictured) said the rights, including to picket, are protected by the Constitution.

“Kenya boasts one of the strongest and well-managed tripartite arrangement through the Labour ministry, employers and workers. Issues with regard to labour legislation are well articulated through the National Labour Board, where all partners are represented,” he said.

Atwoli demanded the amendment withdrawn so appropriate forums can discuss it through the right procedures.

The Labour Relations (Amendment) Bill, 2018, proposes limitation of workers’ right to go on strike by deleting Section 78( 1 )(f), which prevented a person engaged in the provision of an alleged essential service from striking.

The bill seeks to replace it with a new provision that does not prevent such workers from going on strike but instead limits the right, Atwoli said.

He said they recognise the need for continued provision of services “but not at the expense of workers whose right to strike is being limited”.

He said the National Labour Board is mandated to initiate any amendments to the laws. A proposal by the NLB is submitted to the Labour ministry before going to Parliament.

Atwoli said the Act represents the main legal foundation for collective bargaining and labour relations. 


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