WORKERS’ STRUGGLE IN KENYA
When we flash back our minds as to when, why and how the struggle started during colonial days in this country probably we can do an analysis whether the workers today have achieved or will ever achieve the latter/former objective/factors of the struggle.
Factors that led to formation of Trade Unions in Kenya
- Laws enacted by the colonial government to legalize the provision of labor e.g. Hut Tax Ordinance – 1901, native Legislative ordinance – 1915
- Introduction of poll tax
- Racial discrimination
- Partiality and disrespect shown to African workers
- Increased prices of essential commodities
- Food shortages
- Arrest and detention of leaders
- Banning of political associations
- Lack of allowances
- Low wages
- Poor working and living conditions (poor housing)
- No provision for old age security
- No guarantee for continuity of work
Its achievements included
- Africans were protected against victimization
- Increase in wages of African workers
- It united African peoples in the struggle for independence
- It liaised with the international confederation of free trade unions (ICFTU) which accorded it international recognition.
- When African political parties e.g. KAU were banned it kept the spirit of African Nationalism alive.
- It prepared African Nationalists for leadership positions in the liberation struggle.
- It educated African workers on their rights
- It raised the political consciousness of the Africans.
This then poses a question to Who is to blame? How and when shall the workers reclaim back their rights and powers? Who is to defend and fights for their right in this country?Given that the trade unions have been weakened and deprived off power to agitate for the workers problems by the state through; for instance;
- State has continued to lower workers protections to attract investments.
- By signing multilateral agreement on investments- meaning to open door for free flow of goods and services.
- The state through the financial bill of 1994 deprived the unions the powers to agitate for the retrenchment provisions in this country thus giving the employer a lot freedom to do what they want.
- Un employment in this country has forced the government to exempt the EPZ from joining a trade union and the workers continued to suffer through serious exploitation and their rights being abused on the hands of governments and also 2 year tax holiday given to them makes a big loss to our economy which trickles down to other common mwananchi.
Looking at the labor officers in Kenya, the experience we have had with them in making sure that the company always wins the disputes between them and the workers, again the question riggers in our minds as to why.
Below are our recommendations:
- The government’s failure to provide finances to the ministry of labor to facilitate the movement of the officers while enforcing the labor laws to an extent of the employers manipulating them. Either through facilitating them to go and inspect, solve a strike problems for their protection, workers end up losing mercilessly.
- Lack of skilled officers. There is a serious need for the government to overhaul employ skilled officers in this department.
- Due to politically connected persons/ officers in this country and the fact that they own farms and shares in these investments, force the labor officers not do inspection in their farms/industries even if workers’ rights are abused. Otherwise one would risk losing employment turning them completely toothless.
- Corruption due to low pay and very unskilled officers and cartels in the districts has made them to ensure that companies win dispute between a worker and an employer.
MASCULINE TRADE UNIONS
Trade unions are a male affair with a male vision and this is contributed by factors such as:
- Women lack in public awareness of the Trade Union leadership.
- Very undemocratic Trade Union constitution that only protects the males WHO are the incumbent.
- The demand placed upon women unpaid labor within the household increases during times of economic distress, intensifying women’s “burdens of work”.
- Women are primarily bearing the financial cost of raising children.
- Women are primarily being held responsible for reproducing and maintaining the labor force, thus forcing them to have very limited free time to compete with the males for instance