Mr Francis Atwoli, the secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), said the President should also review the minimum wage for workers.
“Inflation has been rising throughout this year,” said Mr Atwoli. “Sh10,000 is not enough minimum pay for anyone. We have asked for a 22 per cent increase. Period.”
The veteran unionist spoke at St Stephen’s Cathedral of the Anglican Church on Jogoo Road, where Cotu held prayers for Kenyan workers ahead of today’s function.
Also present was Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie, who confirmed that President Kenyatta will preside over the Uhuru Park function.
Earlier this month, President Kenyatta promised to push for salary increments for private sector workers.
“For the past two years, we have not increased salaries for private sector workers,” President Kenyatta said when he toured the United Aryan Company, a garment factory in the Baba Dogo Export Processing Zone in Nairobi.
“We are now saying, come Labour Day, we will impress on your employers to give you a salary increment.”
The President skipped last year’s Labour Day celebrations, having announced a 12 per cent minimum wage raise for workers in 2015.
On Sunday, Mr Atwoli argued that Kenyan workers had a right to better pay and to negotiate with their employers.
COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT
“I want to tell all these general secretaries; let us better our collective bargaining agreement,” Mr Atwoli told the congregation.
“It is a sacred document recognised by the Constitution and the global labour body.”
Further, he called for the improvement of the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), which he said had provided a lifeline to thousands of Kenyan workers.
“We want to make sure that all public hospitals have a section for all NHIF card holders,” said Mr Atwoli. “I know private hospitals want to block that so as to benefit, but tutatoa hiyo (we will remove all that).”
He described Kenyan workers as the most hardworking, saying their services were recognised across the world.
“If you think Kenyan workers are not hardworking, try any neighbouring country,” said Mr Atwoli. “Flower farms tried to go to Ethiopia and they all came back here.”
PUT KENYA FIRST
Ms Kandie, however, called for caution and compromise in the various labour negotiations, saying: “We must balance our rights as workers with industrial harmony.
“As you agitate for your rights as workers, let’s all agree to put Kenya first.” According to the CS, while the government recognises the need to develop the needs of workers, it also has to provide other public services.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion weighed in on the minimum wage debate, saying its review was long overdue.
“As we head to the elections in August, we have all agreed to support only those who care about workers, and whose manifestos state what they want to do for us,” said Mr Sossion.
He criticised what he said was a high unemployment rate in Kenya.
“We cannot have this scenario where we are churning out university graduates who are not getting employed,” said Mr Sossion. “We are sitting on a time bomb on this.”
The outspoken teachers’ union leader added: “We have spoken with Brother Atwoli and we have agreed we will unite the labour force in this country.”