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Pressure on Atwoli: Rival group plans parallel Labour Day celebrations

Pressure is mounting on Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU- K) leader Francis Atwoli as a rival group now says it will hold parallel Labour Day celebrations.

The Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUCO) has announced that it will hold its celebrations at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) grounds and has invited government workers to attend. The celebrations are scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, 2024.

The team led by Mr Atwoli plans to hold its celebrations at Uhuru Gardens in Lang’ata Sub-County, Nairobi on the same day.

Both COTU and TUCO have also invited President Dr William Ruto to be the Chief Guest but the Head of State is yet to confirm any of the invitations. TUCO and COTU have been at loggerheads for years.

TUCO was formed during the first term of former President Uhuru Kenyatta and was formed by former Labour CS Kazungu Kambi with the aim of wiping out the COTU group led by Mr Atwoli.

Mr Nyambega Gisesa, who is hosting the TUCO meeting, sent out an invitation to his members to attend the celebrations.

“It is our pleasure to invite you to the 59th Labour Day Celebration to be held at KICC on the 1st of May 2024 at 9:00 am. This year’s event promises to be exceptional as we recognise and honour the hard work and dedication of workers in our great nation,” the letter said, adding that the main celebrations will be graced by the Head of State.

TUCO also urged its members to ignore the event, which will be presided over by Mr Atwoli, saying he does not fight for workers’ rights. Mr Atwoli has been presiding over the Labour Day celebrations for the past 23 years.

Mr Gisesa went on to say that they will use the Labour Day celebrations to “wake up Kenyan workers to the reality that one Francis Atwoli no longer represents their interests”.

This comes at a time when Mr Atwoli is under pressure from several quarters, including Migori Senator Eddy Oketch, who has proposed a bill on industrial relations.

The amendment bill introduces term limits for trade union officials, which the COTU boss opposes.

Mr Atwoli called on the senator to ensure that he withdraws the bill and instead engages the National Labour Commission to come up with meaningful amendments, if necessary, in line with labour laws.

“Senator Oketch must remember that trade unions fought so hard for the independence of this country and the freedoms he and other senators enjoy,” he said.

Similarly, the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA) has issued a directive to all private security companies to immediately stop the deduction and remittance of security guards’ monthly union dues to COTU.

PSRA Director General Fazul Mohamed said that the workers’ umbrella union – COTU – had failed in its mandate to look after the interests of its members.

TUCO has invited Mr Mohamed and Mr Oketch to attend its event at the KICC.

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