COTU threatens industrial action against government over hiked pump prices

COTU officials giving a statement on the new fuel prices led by their Deputy Sec-Gen Benson Okwaro in Nairobi. [David Muthoka, Standard]

The Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) has threatened to take industrial action against the government if it fails to cushion workers against the high fuel prices and ballooning taxes.

The Union's statement comes a day after the Energy Cabinet Secretary said that Kenyans should expect occasional hikes in fuel prices for the next five months.

In a statement on Saturday, September 16, COTU Deputy Secretary-General Benson Okwaro said that if this continues, they will have no choice but to sue the government.

"We reject the issue of an increase in taxes anytime the government wants to raise more money. Unless the government finds a way to cushion workers, we might be forced to take industrial action. The Kenyan worker is suffering as we are the ones absorbing the high cost of living.," said Okwaro.

Further, the union rejected the proposed increase in the Value Added Tax (VAT) by the National Treasury which will see VAT on products increase from 16 to 18 per cent.

According to the officials, Kenyans cannot handle an increase in VAT as some workers are currently on the verge of closing shop due to the high taxes already in place.

"If the intention to increase VAT from 16 to 18 per cent is adopted, most businesses will be forced to close or convert employment from permanent to contract. The government wants to get money, but it cannot be a crime against Kenyan employees...let them widen the tax regime," the deputy SG added.

Their remarks come on the back of a fuel price review by the Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) on Thursday.

Super petrol is now retailing at Sh211.64 in Nairobi, diesel selling at Sh201, and Kerosene at Sh202.13.

This is the first time in history that fuel prices have crossed the Sh200 mark.

As a result, several industries have since announced that the prices of their services and products will go up from Monday.

According to Okwaro, this will have a ripple effect on everything Kenyans do, resulting in a huge effect on Kenyan workers.

COTU wants the government to take immediate action before the country falls into an economic crisis.

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