, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) on Tuesday gave the government a two-week ultimatum to increase the minimum wage by 60 percent and the general wage by 10 percent.
COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli said failure to heed the ultimatum would lead to a massive workers\’ strike. The union however kept off Tuesday\’s protests by civil society organisations.
He said they had presented demands to the government last month and expected to have them addressed on or before May 1 which had been endorsed by the Wages Council.
"We expect a response before or on that day so let us wait for the response because you know that we, as workers, don\’t demonstrate – we just strike – and when we strike everyone will know. Our stewards at the grassroots are just waiting for our word," he said.
He further asked the government to set up clear policies on employment, wages and income as well as investments and infrastructure in order to cushion Kenyan workers against crafty employers.
Mr Atwoli claimed that a lot of foreign investors were taking advantage of the cheap labour in the country in total disregard of the human rights of their workers.
"We have hard working Kenyans- both men and women- and they must be paid well. If you think there is anywhere you can invest and exploit labour you should go there other than indirectly enslaving our people," he argued.
He further dismissed the government\’s attempt to lower excise duty on kerosene by 30 percent saying the move was counterproductive.
Mr Atwoli argued that it would not shield Kenyans from any irregular price increases in the future and that there was need to address the issue in the long term. He also asked the government to counter the inflation rates in the economy.
"Even the sukuma wiki and tomato traders know that there is an increase in fuel prices because they have to pay an extra amount of money to get their goods. Fuel prices have gone up eight times since the Energy Regulatory Commission was established," he pointed out.
Mr Atwoli who was accompanied by members of the National Council of Non Governmental Organisations further called for the speedy implementation of the Constitution. He said that there was need to put in place all the necessary legislation to guide next year\’s elections.
He also asked the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to investigate all candidates who would be vying for posts in the elections.
"We want to see your CV. We want to make sure that before you declare your candidature you are cleared by the anti corruption," he said adding that it was important for the country to fight corruption in order to spur economic growth.
Meanwhile the Matatu Owners Association has asked its members to reduce fares to reflect the relief provided by the government which lowered excise charged on diesel imports by 20 percent.
National Coordinator Simon Kimutai also asked the government to address the spiralling fuel prices, in the long term, so as to avoid an economic crisis.
"We are asking them to bring down their prices such that if 30 percent represents Sh9 then calculate what percentage Sh2 represents and reduce the fares by that," he explained.
He further asked the government to reveal how much tax it collected from fuel products in the country.
"We have realised that the government only takes 26 percent from the industry and this is strange because there is a perception that the government takes over 50 percent. There is a cartel that benefits from all these," he said.
Mr Atwoli further asked the government to resettle all those that were displaced following the 2007 post election violence.
"The issue of IDPs is a concern to everyone. Most of our people are still living in camps. The government should tell them to go back to their original homes and offer them security. Nobody is in transit in this country; we are all Kenyans," he said.