• Atwoli is set to defend his post in the Friday elections while Panyako has come forward to challenge the long-serving Cotu boss.
• Already Panyako and a host of trade unions are accusing Atwoli of using unorthodox means to elbow rivals from the race and get a smooth ride back to the office.
Cotu boss Francis Atwoli and Kenya National Union of Nurses secretary general Seth Panyako are embroiled in a nasty fight over the union’s top seat.
Atwoli is set to defend his post in the Friday elections, while Panyako has come forward to challenge the long-serving Cotu secretary general.
Already, Panyako and a host of trade unions are accusing Atwoli of using unorthodox means to elbow rivals from the race and get a smooth ride back to the office.
The other unions are Kenya National Union of Domestic Workers, Kenya Concrete Ceramic Tiles Interior Design Workers Union, Public Transport Workers Union, Rift Valley Workers Union and Kenya Union of Secondary Non-Teaching Staff.
In correspondence seen by the Star, Atwoli is blamed for disregarding a government circular on elections to blocking affiliation request of the five unions and in effect elbowing them from the polls.
Panyako wants Cotu elections cancelled and the same held after May 26 when the term of the current officeholder ends.
Atwoli has served the union since 2001 when he took over from the late Joseph Joy Mugalla.
His current term is supposed to end on May 26. He was last reelected on May 26, 2016, for another five-year term.
On Tuesday, the KNUN boss wrote to Atwoli protesting what he termed his underhand dealings to lock out the nurses’ body from the polls.
Atwoli had in a letter dated April 1 claimed that KNUN is not listed among unions that have completed branch and national elections, thus unqualified to participate in the polls.
“As part of the requirements by Cotu constitution, we have obtained a letter from the labour commissioner’s office listing unions that have since met this requirement and KNUN is not listed to be among the unions whose elections have since been completed,” Atwoli said in the letter.
However, according to Panyako, Atwoli’s move is meant to bar him from contesting the top position, insisting KNUN had met all the requirements, including registering its new office with the Registrar of Trade Unions.
“We have noted with concern that you have addressed your letter to one Hellen Apiyo, Acting commissioner for labour inquiring on the status of the election instead of requesting the same from Registrar of Trade unions who is the custodian of the election records,” Panyako said in response to Atwoli.
“It is clear to us that there is a predetermined decision to use Hellen Apiyo to bar some of us from participating in Cotu elections.”
The five unions earlier moved to the Employment and Labour Relations Court to stop the elections demanding that Cotu accept their affiliation request and be allowed to participate in the elections of officials.
Rift Valley Workers Union boss Munayi Opondo said the unions' requests are either being ignored or not responded to, despite being registered and having made applications to be affiliated to Cotu.
They claim that it is a trick by the Cotu boss to lock them out and avoid competition in the union.
Opondo argues that the refusal to be listed as affiliates to the giant union is an infringement and gross violation of the petitioner’s constitutional and employment rights as provided for by law.
“On previous diverse dates, the petitioners herein, variously attempted to freely exercise their constitutionally affirmed rights to Freedom of Association, by each applying for their respective affiliations with and or the respondents herein, in strict accordance to the respondent’s constitution, and the Constitution of Kenya,” reads a petition filed in court.
“Once a registered trade union makes an application to the respondent for affiliation, the respondent is only expected to acknowledge the said application in accordance to the said respondent’s constitution”
The petitioners want the court to direct to that they be issued with an affiliation certificate and allowed to participate in the coming elections.
Cotu was founded by Tom Mboya, who was its secretary general for 10 years from 1953 and was succeeded by Peter Kibisu in 1963.
Edited by Kiilu Damaris