We’ve no business removing workers from unions, says CS

Thursday, April 8th, 2021 00:00 |

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Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui yesterday denied reports that some government agencies are arbitrarily removing workers from the registers of top trade unions and recruiting them to rival unions.

Citing ceaseless wrangles between the Teachers Service Commission and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Chelugui said his ministry was not aware of cases where workers have been removed from the registers of the teachers’ union, Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun) or any other trade union.

“Should this arise, then parties have the liberty to report such occurrences as labour trade disputes as is provided for under the law,” the CS said through the chairman of the National Assembly Co­mmittee on Labour and Social Welfare Peter Mwathi.

“Many such claims or disputes have been processed and amicably resolved by the Ministry under established mechanism in part (4) on dispute resolution and part (9) on adjudication of the Labour Relations Act 2007 for dispute resolutions,” Mwathi added, insisting that Complaints by members for misappropriations or misuse of union funds in certain instances and several are in court.

The CS was responding to questions posed to his ministry by Nominated MP Wilson Sossion who accused him of failing to implement Section 49 of the Labour Relations Act while the employers continue to offload membership from union registers or withdrawing check-off.

Sossion blamed the Labour ministry and TSC of reducing its membership  thereby eroding its revenues. The deliberate reduction in the number of Knut members, Sossion said, is aimed at scaling down teachers’ remittances to the union.

Court orders

This, he said, is reportedly aimed at financially weakening the union that fights for teachers’ rights. Currently, Knut membership stands at 17,000 from the 187,471 in 2019, according to data from the TSC while UKCS membership has declined from 70,000 to 30,000.

Other than KNUT, those affected includes Uasu, Local Government Workers Union, The Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS), The Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists, and Dentists Union (KMPDU), Knun and Clinical Officers Union whose numbers have also declined.

The decline in membership and subsequent diminishing revenue streams, Sossion said, has made it difficult for unions to organise and conduct their operations as provided for in Article 41 of the Constitution, despite some unions obtaining court orders compelling the Cabinet Secretary to award agency fees.

According to Mwathi, the Ministry has not failed to implement Section 49 of the Labour Relations Act as suggested.

Instead, the Ministry has identified various challenges which mainly concern lack of statutory form for filing an application for agency fees by trade unions.

“This has resulted in various challenges, which include inconsistency in documentation and information filed by parties,” the CS said.

For example, he cited inclusion of bank details like the branch and the bank and the application not filed, not showing the details of individuals or whether it is a common account for the union or for collection of dues.

“Great disparities in amounts payable between employers in the same union. Agency fee amount is equal to the union dues amount, creating confusion among workers whether they are members or not,” the CS held.

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