Atwoli, Fazul fight over guards' union dues

Security guards from different firms during the Mass Registration of Private Security Officers Guard Force number dubbed '30K for 30K' at Uhuru Park, Nairobi. March 30, 2024. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Central Organization of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli is now calling on the Director of Public Prosecutions to initiate criminal proceedings against Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) boss Fazul Mahamed.

During a press conference yesterday, Atwoli claimed that in 2016, the Commission on Administration of Justice found that Fazul had used a doubtful degree certificate to secure employment at the NGO Coordination Board where he served as chief executive.

“We have said that if the government is not going to take action against Fazul, then we will institute private prosecution,” Atwoli said.

He added: “Quietly, we have asked government to activate what is pending in the EACC offices and they had already recommended to the DPP for his prosecution for lying on occupying a public office illegally when he is not a qualified person.”

Atwoli said they wanted a person who understands the role of a regulator appointed to replace Fazul.

“In calling for the resignation, arrest and prosecution of Fazul Mahamed, we equally understand that Fazul’s term at the helm of PSRA is coming to an end and thus the increasing appetite for juvenile antics to gain prominence for another appointment,” he said.

The Cotu boss was reacting a day after Fazul directed private security firms to stop remitting guards’ union fees to the umbrella workers’ body.

“Pending conclusion of the investigation, all private security companies are hereby directed to, effective immediately, stop deducting and remitting private security officers’ trade union fees to the Central Organisation of Trade Unions,” said Fazul, in the directive to Kenya Security Industry Association chairman Jeremy Van Tongeren.

Atwoli quickly hit back, saying Fazul had resorted to destabilising and interfering with not only the operations of Kenya National Private Security Workers Union but also the tripartite partners, among them, Cotu, Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, and Federation of Kenyan Employers.

He accused Fazul of abrogating himself the powers of employer, regulator and union, and reminded him that Cotu is “a free and independent trade union that is neither regulated by the authority”. 

“As such, the demands contained in the letter by PSRA can only be made by the union members or the respective union. Further, the union dues Cotu receives from private security workers, through their union’s affiliation to Cotu, is as a consequence of a gazette notice by the Ministry of Labour, dated September 2, 2016, considering the labour laws and the requirements of the constitution of Cotu,” said Atwoli.

He reiterated that he had been in the forefront champion for the rights and welfare of guards, adding that as a sign of good working rapport, “not only is Isaac Andabwa, KNPSWU’s Secretary General, sitting on the Cotu executive board, but constantly receives full support from the leadership of Cotu in organising workers in his sector”. 

“A quick Google search would reveal that, over time, the Fazul-led body, PSRA, has been the greatest impediment to the enhancement of the rights and welfare of private security guards as Cotu has received numerous complaints on the same through our affiliate union, Kenya National Private Security Workers Union. PSRA has, for long, stood against the many reforms proposed by Cotu towards enhanced welfare of the private security workers,” said Atwoli.

In the recent past, Atwoli and Fazul have been embroiled in a war of words over the management of the private security sector that has remained unregulated for a long time.

Efforts to reach Fazul for a response were futile. But sources close to him said the PSRA head felt Atwoli failed to address pertinent issues raised. “Instead, he has chosen to go personal, evading to address problems facing private security officers,” said a source.

The Ombudsman’s findings in 2016 were that Fazul was irregularly appointed to the helm of NGO Coordination Board and that he lacked requisite qualifications with glaring discrepancies in his degree certificate. During the mass registration exercise of guards at Uhuru Park on March 31, Fazul threatened to mobilise guards to replace Atwoli at the helm of the giant union.