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COTU’s Francis Atwoli seeks UN help over Kenya teachers’ pay dispute

By Daniel Psirmoi | November 10th 2015
COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli

SWITZERLAND: The protracted 50-60 percent pay dispute between the government and teachers is now before a United Nations agency.

Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli Tuesday held discussion with International Labour Organization (ILO) Director General Guy Ryder over the decision by the Government to deny the Kenyan teachers the pay increase.

In the meeting with the global trade union boss, Atwoli who is currently attending the ILO Governing Body Summit in Geneva Switzerland also raised concern over what he termed as the continued intimidation and harassment of the countries labour movement by the government.

Last Friday, the Court of Appeal quashed a 50-60 per cent salary increase that the Labour Court had awarded the teachers in June this year, on grounds that it was unconstitutional.
In a June 30 ruling, Justice Nduma Nderi had awarded the teachers a salary increase from July 2013 to June 2017.

Tuesday, the COTU boss in a statement sent to newsrooms said he sought the intervention and arbitration of ILO, which is a UN agency over the matter involving teachers, which has seen their representatives being in court since January this year fighting for a basic salary increase.

"I appealed to the Director General to intervene in Industrial Relations dispute mechanism in Kenya where the government has blatantly refused to enter into dialogue with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET)," said Atwoli, who noted that the refusal by the government to enter into a dialogue with the parties is against the ILO ratified convention 87 and 98 and Article 41 of the Kenya Constitution.

"I informed the Director General that COTU (K) has tried on several occasions to intervene in order to bring understanding between the two teachers union and the government but unfortunately the government has refused to listen to COTU (K) on industrial peace between the two unions on one hand and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the government on the other hand," he added.

Atwoli emphasized at the meeting that ILO must use its international mechanisms to make the Kenyan government recognize the enormous industrial relations statutes mechanism that are in law and practice.

In an earlier meeting of the International Trade Union Confederation in Brussels, Atwoli raised concerns with the world trade union leaders over the Kenyan government's non-commitment on union issues.
He explained that for the first time since independence, the Minister for Labour failed to represent the government at the ILO meeting in Geneva, as well as at this year's African Union Labour and Social Affairs Commission meeting in Addis Ababa and other various regional meetings.

"Such mannerism portrays a gloomy picture on the International Labour and Industrial Relations Practice since the Minister for Labour was expected to address the ongoing ILO Governing Body meeting in Geneva and the information available indicates that she declined to represent the country, a move that puts Kenya to the list of the African failed States," said Atwoli.

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