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Cotu boss Atwoli urges Health CS to revoke directive on union dues

By Harold Odhiambo | February 7th 2021

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli has asked Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe to reverse a directive to ministry officials and county governments not to remit membership dues to unions in the health sector.

Mr Atwoli described the directive as illegality that violates labour laws, including legislation that allows trade unions to negotiate Collective Bargain Agreement (CBA).

Among the unions that are bound to be affected by the developments include Kenya National Union of Nurses (Knun), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), among others.

“I want to appeal to the CS to withdraw the circular and allow union dues to reach where it is intended,” said Atwoli.

The directive was reportedly issued in December, last year, with county governments as well as the Ministry of Health expected to refrain from remitting dues.

In a letter dated December 22, 2020, and addressed to the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Margaret Kobia, Kagwe said county governments and the Ministry of Health will not remit union dues.

Cotu boss yesterday said the decision is in bad faith and an affront to labour laws that are respected across the world.

“Kenya is a signatory to International Labour laws. The Kenya government cannot say they will not apply the check off system which was accepted and put into law in 1965,” said Atwoli.

Meanwhile, the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi has temporarily stayed the implementation of the circular.

Justice Mathews Nduma Nderi issued the orders on Friday following an application filed Knun.

The circular by Kagwe indicated that the decision to stop the remittance of the dues was reached after a consultative meeting between his ministry and Council of Governors.

“Arising from the consultative meeting held between the Ministry of Health and the Council of Governors on December 21, 2020, it was decided that with effect from the date of this letter, the ministry and the county governments will not play the agency role of remitting union dues to the unions in the health sector,” read the circular Ref. MOH/HRM&D/IPPD/SM/(30).

The letter was copied to the then CoG chairperson Wycliffe Oparanya and the Principal Secretary Ministry of Health.

Aggrieved by the decision, Knun through lawyer Tyson Kinoti moved to court seeking orders to have the implementation of the circular stopped. Knun sued the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender and also Kenyatta National Hospital Board.

KNUN claims it did not receive January subscriptions as deductions were not done.

“An ex-parte interim order be and is hereby issued staying the implementation of the second respondent (Ministry of Health) circular of Ref. MOH/HRM&D/IPPD/SM/(30) dated December 22, 2020, pending the hearing and determination of the application,” read an order issued by Justice Nderi.

Knun was also directed to serve the two ministries within seven days.

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