60pc wage rise or a strike, COTU warns

April 24, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya April 24 – The Central Organization for Trade Unions (COTU) has threatened to lead workers in a countrywide strike if the government fails to announce an increase of at least 60per cent of workers\’ minimum wages on Labour Day.

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the increase of the minimum wage would help cushion workers against the rising cost of living which has been occasioned by a steady rise in fuel products.
"If the government is not going to increase the minimum wage for workers, they should not even come to the Labour Day celebrations. We will announce a major strike," he warned.

"Once we announce the nationwide strike, workers should not go to work until they get further directions from COTU, this is a serious matter," Mr Atwoli said.

Speaking at a thanks-giving prayer service at the St Stephen\’s Cathedral church on Jogoo Road on Sunday afternoon, Mr Atwoli said major sectors have been raking in millions of shillings in profits at the expense of poorly remunerated workers making it necessary to increase their wages.

"There is no sector that is not making millions of shilling in profits today, be it the tea sector, flower industry name them. We are not asking for a 60 percent increase for the sake of it. We know what we are saying. We know it is something that is possible," he said.

Labour Day celebrations are set to take place on Sunday next week and Mr Atwoli has now warned top government officials to stay away from the ceremony unless they have good news for workers.

"They (government officials) should not come there, if they know that they are not prepared to increase the minimum wages for our workers," he stressed.

The ceremony can be officiated by the President, Prime Minister, Vice President or the line Minister.

Lately, there has been a major uproar across the country following the increase of petrol prices to Sh111 in Nairobi, the highest ever recorded in recent years.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya said the increase in fuel costs had affected prices of almost all commodities causing a major crisis in the country.

The organisation led a peaceful demonstration in Nairobi and other parts of the country last week to demand an end of what its officials termed as "exploitation of Kenyans."

The situation is not different in Uganda where Opposition leader Kizza Besigye and other members of the Opposition have been locked up jail after weeklong demonstrations over the rising cost of fuel and other products in the east African nation.

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