Ukur Yattani roots for dialogue to abate strikes

Sunday May 19 2019

STRIKES

Kenya National Union of Nurses members in Nakuru begin their strike on February 18, 2019. They wanted increased perks. The Labour ministry encourages deepening of social dialogue as an alternative means of dispute resolution. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

In this week Labour and Social Protection Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani responds to your questions.

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1. Industrial actions are protected by the Bill of Rights under the Constitution, yet every time workers down their tools after giving the requisite notice to the employer and the other relevant agencies, these employers and sometimes the government rushes to court to have the strike declared illegal. What would make a strike illegal yet the required notice has been served? Wanjiru Wambui, Thika

While I agree that industrial actions and picketing are protected by the Bill of Rights, the same Constitution also gives both employer and employee the right to use available instruments like the Employment and Labour Courts whenever there is a dispute.

Even the International Labour Organisation recognises that no rights are absolute and reasonable limits may be placed on some rights and freedoms.

Neither the government nor the employer is desirous of industrial action, which usually ends up disrupting normal operations.

And it is with this in mind that my ministry encourages deepening of social dialogue as an alternative means of dispute resolution.

2. On April 27, the board of trustees of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) started the process of recruiting the Fund’s managing trustee. This will be the third time such an exercise is being undertaken at NSSF. The first two failed because of, among other reasons, external political meddling. As a ministry, how will you safeguard this process from similar external influence so that the Fund gets a substantive managing trustee? Tom J. Waudo, Nairobi.

The recruitment is spearheaded by the board and the process is transparent and fair. Basically, it is an open process.

The recruitment will be carried out in line with government laid down procedures and guidelines.

My role is to ensure that the board is properly constituted and is aligned to the constitutional requirement, particularly on leadership, integrity and inclusivity.

3. Instead of solely focusing on matters to do with labour, often times we seem to have allowed too much politics at Labour Day celebrations. This ends up discouraging workers who would want to attend the celebrations. Can your ministry take the lead in organising and setting the agenda for the celebrations instead of leaving it to unions? Francis Njuguna, Kibichoi

Labour Day is the workers’ annual international anniversary, which is marked, by most countries and their workers across the globe on May 1 of each year.

It is a day during which workers meet and reflect on gains achieved from the previous year.

It also provides a forum for tripartite partners (workers, employers and government commonly known as social partners) to jointly ponder over the challenges plaguing the world of work and try to prescribe solutions for the same.

In Kenya traditionally, the most representative organisation for workers, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions, leads the organisation of Labour Day celebrations by proposing the theme.

Before this day, a joint committee is formed, which meets jointly and regularly to prepare the programme.

In order to improve on future celebrations, we shall ask the lead organiser, Cotu, to allocate equal time for speeches for partners.

4. Kenya is yet to ratify International Labour Organisation Treaty No 189 of June 16, 2011 on the Rights of Domestic Workers who in this country continue to suffer from poor working conditions, harassment, abuse and other forms of injustices from their employers. Why is it taking too long to sign this important treaty whose primary goal is to promote human dignity? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

In the case of this convention, a request for ratification to the Cabinet Secretary for Labour was raised by Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Education Institutions and Hospital Workers Union.

This application has been placed before the National Labour Board next meeting for consideration.

Once the board meets, the Convention will be discussed and thereafter the Ministry will set in motion the mechanism and process of ratification as provided for in the Treaty Making Act of 2014.

5. The government's Cash Transfer Scheme for senior citizens and the elderly above 60 years was a noble idea to support them to live decent lives. However, this programme has been mired in a lot of challenges in registration of beneficiaries, the challenging account opening procedures as well as problems in disbursement of funds. What measures do you plan to introduce to improve uptake and enjoyment of this fund by the beneficiaries? Dan Murugu, Nakuru

This programme for the elderly that we commonly call Older Persons Cash Transfer Programme is one of three strategic interventions that my Ministry is implementing as Inua Jamii.

The programme, which was started in 2007/08 on a pilot basis targeting poor and vulnerable elderly citizens aged 65 years and above, currently reaches cumulatively 833,129 senior citizens.

We acknowledge that there have been some delays caused by situations like budget cycles and disbursement mechanisms.

We are pursuing strategies to eliminate these bottlenecks going forward and to improve uptake of the fund.

Firstly we have increased the number of banks from two to four so that senior citizens can be reached much closer to where they stay; we gave them the opportunity to choose a bank of their choice.

We have migrated them from the initial card-based to account-based mode of payment, meaning they can access the funds from the nearest bank in a secure and dignified manner.

The money can be withdrawn on a need basis allowing them to plan for the expenditure.

They can also bank into the account any additional funds that they get from other sources.

Additionally, we have linked all the beneficiaries to the Integrated Population Registration System (IPRS) to ensure only genuine beneficiaries are registered.

The beneficiaries are authenticated through biometric mode of transaction as a way of proof of life at least once every six months.

6. Sir, under what legal framework are Constituency Social Assistance Committees established and what is the policy on their sittings, remuneration and mandate? Mathani Kaboi, Mwea Constituency, Kirinyaga

In November 15, 2013, we held a meeting with the Departmental Committee on Labour and Social Welfare (LSW) of the National Assembly.

During this meeting it was recommended that a Constituency Social Assistance Committee (CSAC) be formed to oversight the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme.

Subsequently, a circular was issued by the Cabinet Secretary to all the field officers from then Departments of Social Development and Children Services detailing the recommendations of the LSW committee in terms of membership and the nominating institutions.

This was to give the programme the much needed community participation, in a voluntary manner.

The CSAC meets once every quarter, and during such meetings they are entitled to an allowance of Sh3,000.

Their role is oversight and programme publicity especially during targeting, validation and registration.

7. Most trade unionists have never had kind words for the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), although it is a constitutional body meant to provide checks in the utilisation of the country's taxes. In every industrial action, SRC has been blamed for standing in the way of honest negotiations. What should be the role of the commission in negotiations for collective bargaining agreements (CBA)? Komen Moris, Eldoret

The role of SRC in public service salary determination is to advise on matters of remuneration.

As you may be aware, there are various government agencies who determine public service rewards and remuneration. All these agencies have complementing roles in development of a wages and remuneration policy for Kenya.

The SRC does not directly engage in the CBA negotiations.

However it has a mandate to advise the government on the financial and non-financial negotiable items under CBA and provide necessary guidelines within the existing framework.

The SRC is a valuable partner and critical in creating industrial harmony during and after negotiations.

8. The unemployment levels in the country have reached disturbing proportions, especially among the youth. As a ministry, what innovative policies have you put in place to tame this situation, which is also counterproductive to the country in terms of surging crime statistics? Komen Moris, Eldoret

We have developed employment policies and strategies that promote decent work through the National Employment Authority.

We have also initiated the construction of National Employment Centre that will be a one-stop shop for employment activities that will include career guidance counselling, job matching and provision of labour market information.

We have also initiated an online national database where employers will post available job opportunities and job seekers will register for available vacancies.

We have also re-engineered foreign employment creation and labour market migration through licensing of private employment agencies with a view of protecting Kenyans seeking employment opportunities abroad.

9. Sir, there is a group of former workers called pensioners whose plight nobody seems to care about. Why would a pensioner who spent all his/her energy and time working to make the country better be receiving a monthly pittance of Sh3,000? Karumbi Paul

Pension is determined at the point of employment as part of the terms and conditions of employment, which is contained in the individual letters of contract.

Having said that the amounts payable to a pensioner is derived and dependent on the last basic salary of the pensioner at his/her last pay cheque.

However the ministry has social protection programmes under Inua Jamii targeting vulnerable groups like older pensioners, and we also have free medical treatment for the group under NHIF.

10. For some months between September 2018 and at least until January 2019, funds transfer to the elderly was delayed for reasons that the National Treasury had been behind in disbursing the funds. Has the situation improved? How does the government protect the beneficiaries of the Cash Transfer Programme when disbursement delays? Are they ever informed of the delays? Munira Khalif, Mombasa

I agree that the beneficiaries were paid in September 2018 under the previous card based mode of payment.

After that we embarked on the migration to the new choice model that is account-based.

The delay in the disbursement had nothing to do with delays by the National Treasury to disburse funds but this process of migrating to the new payment platform.

I am happy to report that this was necessary to also ensure cleaning of the payroll, but more importantly I can confirm that the beneficiaries were paid from March 18 all their arrears for the period between September 2018 to February 2019.

We do awareness creation through our field officers, the media and other government structures whenever there are any delays and also explain the reason for such.