23 January 2013

Kenya: Striking Council Workers Resume Duty

Nairobi — Striking City Council of Nairobi (CCN) workers have resumed their duties after their grievances were referred to the Industrial Court.

The Kenya Local Government Workers Union Nairobi branch secretary Festus Ngari expressed confidence that the court will find an amicable solution to the stalemate between the workers and the council.

City Hall workers downed their tools last week abandoning vital services like garbage collection. Revenue collection was also hit as parking attendants were not available to bill motorists.

"We are happy with the direction the matter has taken. The issues have been referred to the Industrial Court and workers have confidence with that particular court. We are aware that the Commissioner of Labour through the mediator who was appointed to carry out the investigation has already done his report from all other parties except the representation from the Local Government Ministry," Ngari said.

They were demanding the implementation of a collective bargaining agreement signed between them and the Association of Local Government Employers last year which raised their pay.

"We have confidence in the Industrial Court and we are very optimistic that is decision will be good," he pointed out.

The agreement, if implemented, will see the lowest paid workers receive a 36 percent increment while the upper cadres will enjoy a 30 percent pay raise. The workers are also demanding uniform and house allowance increase.

Ngari said talks between workers of the Nairobi branch union and the Local Government Minister Paul Otuoma collapsed after he failed to invite a representative from the Ministry of Labour.

The law requires that the Ministry of Labour arbitrates where the employer and employee are locked in a dispute.

Permanent Secretary Karega Mutahi said the Local Government Ministry was not in a position to act until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) advised on the CBA.

He said local authorities were operating under serious financial constraints and may not recover from the revenue losses to pay workers' salaries this month.

Ngari said local authorities' workers were the lowest paid in the public sector and accused Otuoma of attempting to stall the negotiations by directing that the workers to consult the salaries commission.

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