Nairobi — The central Organisation of Trade Unions is now demanding the registration of a police union to enable those who enforce the law in Kenya air their grievances and push for better working conditions.
Speaking on Sunday, Secretary general Francis Atwoli said COTU wants the union registered within seven days.
He argued that trade unions for police officers exist in many countries across the world and it was not an outlandish proposition.
"We have police unions in countries like South Africa which even has two of them, Norway is the oldest... in Sweden we have the same. We have one in Australia, USA and many others. The key thing is to have a rider that ensures that they must always engage in dialogue and strike be the last option," he added.
"These are our daughters and sons who were ambushed and killed while trying to protect poor Kenyans. They must have a document that spells out their terms and conditions of service, ranging from housing, insurance cover, leave, wages, overtime that they perform, education of their children and their spouses, and provision of health care," Atwoli said.
He said such a union would open a channel for dialogue between the government and police officers and not encourage strikes.
"Those unions that are under COTU with their full Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA), how many of them go on strike? Almost nil. Because they are always in boardrooms negotiating as per the requirement of the CBA. So if the police are allowed to enter into a dialogue on issues of importance with the government, they cannot go on strike," he argued.
Currently picketing is outlawed in the constitution for members of the disciplined forces.
Atwoli also expressed his disappointment at the manner in which the government through the minister of Internal Security has handled the issue of the death of the 48 police officers who were killed in Baragoi, Samburu while in a mission to flush out cattle rustlers.
He said the matter has been handled randomly.
"It's a pity up to now... you can read all the newspapers that even issues to do with compensation and what have you, no one is talking! the burial programme; no one is talking about it. And it is simply because, our officers in uniform are not effectively represented by a trade union," Atwoli lamented.
The demand by COTU comes amid concerns police officers work under inhumane conditions and are ill-equipped to perform their duties leading to deaths in the line of duty.
COTU now plans to have a special committee to follow up the matter and ensure a police union is registered in a week's time.
"We will call you for the next action, if the government does not act," Atwoli vowed.