22 April 2014

Kenya: Labour Day Showdown Looms Over Union Rivalry

Photo: Capital FM
COTU Secretary General, Francis Atwoli.

Nairobi — A showdown looms on May 1 after the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli insisted that he would not allow the Federation of Public Service Trade Unions (PUSETU) to, 'hijack' their plans for the official national Labour Day celebrations.

He said that contrary to Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi's assertions, they were not working with PUSETU on the Labour Day preparations and were moving forward with their own plans.

"So far nobody has requested us to have a joint Labour Day celebrations committee. So where the minister is getting his joint Labour Day celebrations committee with PUSETU to us is daydreaming," he said.

He added that the prerogative to organise the Labour Day festivities fell on workers and took exception to Kambi's insistence that COTU, "has no choice," but to work with PUSETU.

"It isn't a day when government should say we must. Those are things of yester years. Labour Day belongs to workers," he said.

And while he shirked the idea of sharing a podium with PUSETU, as Kambi had insisted, he said they were welcome to the festivities.

"They can come as they have been coming always and listen as workers' leaders, we have no objection," he said.

Kambi had only hours before been categorical that the Executive, and by extension President Uhuru Kenyatta, would only attend festivities where all unions, including PUSETU, would have their voices heard.

"What is the so wrong with COTU speaking, PUSETU speaking and the government speaking?" he posed.

Atwoli however appeared unfazed by Kambi's threats explaining that they had fulfilled their duty by extending an invitation to President Kenyatta and his cabinet.

"He (Kambi) can hide that letter but because we are going to be live on one of the TV stations we will show all letters that we have written to the minister," he said.

On its part, PUSETU maintained that it would, "fully participate," in the Labour Day festivities despite Atwoli's threats.

"They say that they have secured all the venues but let me tell you that they are all open to the public and I can assure you that we as PUSETU will fully participate in the Labour Day celebrations," PUSETU Vice-Chairman Sammy Kubasu told Capital FM News.

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