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ATWOLI: Attacks by Labour CS Kazungu Kambi can only strengthen Cotu

COMMENTARY
By FRANCIS ATWOLI | June 5th 2014

I take this opportunity to congratulate the President and the Vice Presidents (of the ILO) for their well-deserved election to guide the affairs of this year’s conference. Cotu has total confidence in your ability to effectively guide the affairs of the conference.

We also congratulate the Director General for submitting a well focused report whose relevance and appropriateness need not be gainsaid.

Setting an International Labour Organsiation (ILO) agenda for us as workers is a continuation of the ILO campaign to re-orient the focus of globalisation to ensure it maintains a human face by helping to put in mechanisms that facilitate a fair sharing of its gains.

Core challenge

This is what the 2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation calls for and this report aptly responds to this core challenge.

Mr President, Cotu agrees with the report’s position that despite the existence of various international, regional as well as national frameworks regulating migration, irregular and undocumented migration still persists, and is affecting virtually all countries including those of origin, transit, and destination in almost equal measure. 

As such, only a concerted and holistic approach involving all actors can sustainably address it.

For this to happen, countries need to respect and uphold the decent work agenda and in particular the fundamental rights at work.

Addressing such concerns across countries and regions would be a sure way of curtailing the free flow of capital, which has always been known as a cause for low production costs, a phenomenon which triggers the movement of labour in the same direction thus exacerbating the migration dilemma.

Cotu, however, feels that addressing decent work deficits in countries of origin, which is a significant contributor of migration, cannot be achieved without a transparent and objective involvement of social partners in such policy initiatives, while respecting their independence and right of representation of their members as provided by the ILO Constitution.

This, however, does not seem to be the case in many countries, as exemplified in our case in Kenya where the Government, through the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services, has embarked on a scheme of weakening our federation by sponsoring the formation of one of the weakest rival centres, the Federation of Public Sector Trade Unions of Kenya (Pusetu) with three trade unions under the same government as employer. What a shame.

Without consent

This was done after Cotu blew the whistle on the theft of workers’ money at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) that is one hundred per cent owned by workers.

Further, the Cabinet Secretary has to date refused to gazette our nominee to the NSSF, instead purporting to determine who will represent our interests without our consent, contrary to provisions of Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and protection of the Right to Organise.

Cotu equally detests the order by the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Services to police to harass Cotu officials on issues of administration at Cotu headquarters. This is unacceptable since Cotu is a free and independent labour movement in Kenya.

At the same time, Cotu calls on this august house to support social partners’ independence as provided in the Constitution and reiterates the urgent need for the ILO to promote and urge member states to respect fundamental principles and rights at work as a way to address the decent work deficits and hence migration challenges.

In conclusion Mr President, Cotu endorses the future direction proposed in the report as a way of responding to the migration challenge as indicated in paragraphs 112 to 115, and hopes that the Governing Body will facilitate the ILO to make these proposals a reality and visible within the post-2015 development framework.

The writer is a member of the ILO governing body and Secretary General of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu). He delivered this speech at the 103rd International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

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