Moi was quick to fix workers woes to avert strikes

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli.
President Moi strengthened labour and trade unions to make it easy for him to resolve workers grievances and professional matters to minimise industrial unrest.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary general Francis Atwoli and Union of Kenya Civil Servants secretary general Tom Odege said Moi abhorred workers' strike.

“He would act swiftly to avert the union strikes and at times defied them when they demanded too much than his government could afford to offer,” said Mr Atwoli.

The late former Head of State used to dialogue with union officials and negotiate good packages that the National Treasury could offer.

“Whenever trade unions or teachers or civil servants or varsity dons wanted an increase in pay, he would sit with the union officials and discuss the best way forward,” Atwoli said.

The Cotu boss noted that during Moi’s reign, trade unions membership grew from 300,000 to more than 1 million, making Kenya have strong labour unions representation.

“He knew that the trade unions would try to improve the economic conditions of workers by representing their cases to the employers for better pay deals,” he said

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The huge membership helped trade unions increase cooperation and well-being among workers and establishing contact with employers.

Unifying factor

Atwoli regretted that some State officials wanted to ensure there was no common unifying factor among the workers as seen in the Teachers Service Commission fight against the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

“This would defy the essence of trade unions Moi allowed to be registered to represent workers at will,” he said.

The unions offer a platform for workers to interact. 

“They should be encourage as social units that bond Kenyans and not scuttled for political expediency,” said Atwoli.

Mr Odege said Moi ensured that civil servants pay was improved.

The former President introduced job groups to facilitate promotions of hard working civil servants.

Besides, he allowed for in job training of government officials to motivate them and provision of transport for state departments to ease mobility.

Most of the industrialists in Africa were not keen on providing facilities and proper working conditions for workers.

They were only interested in getting their work done to reap maximum profits.

In such con­ditions, trade unions Atwoli and Odege said these factors made them come in and fight for workers rights.

“Those working in higher offices were driven round in state-of-the-art cars,” said UKCS boss Odege.


Opposition leaders protested that the top of the range cars were fuel guzzlers and urged Moi to cut on expenditure and size of the government

Atwoli eulogised the late Moi as a man of great compassion, humility and a generous leader who cherished peace, love and unity and professional developments.

“President Moi used to host several delegations at his Kabarak home and state lodges,” he said.

He recalled that Kanu delegations that visited President Moi either at State lodges across the county or at State House-Nairobi never left empty handed.

“Majority of the visitors were common people steadfast and loyal to President Moi and the ruling party Kanu. Moi greased their palms whenever they visited,” he said.

On security and politics, Atwoli said the former President had his ears on the ground and each day he was briefed by local chiefs besides getting the intelligence briefs.

This made him respond quickly to problems affecting wananchi. 

Atwoli, who sits on the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) board, said Moi was well informed of goings-on in parastatal.

He would be informed about agenda of board meetings by confidantes. “One day before I went in to a meeting my phone rang. It was President Moi’s hotline calling. I quickly picked it up,” Atwoli told Sunday Standard.

Then he posed, iko nini huko, (What’s cooking there?).

“I assured him all was well and we just wanted to streamline some management issues at NSSF. Then he said alright go ahead. Good day.”

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Francis AtwoliCotuDaniel Moi