BY STEPHEN MUTORO
The Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) appeals to workers, matatu operators and other Kenyans of goodwill not to participate in the strike called by Cotu leadership from Monday.
No country in the world has ever cut the high inflation and consumer injustices through industrial strikes. Neither does paralysing public transport ease the consumer burden. On the contrary, the planned Cotu strike runs the risk of eroding the few economic gains the country has made.
Again, Cotu has had no known record of fighting for consumers other than for salary increments of its affiliate union members. On April 19, 2011 for instance, Cotu distanced itself from the Cofek peaceful demonstrations which were aimed at compelling government to cushion consumers against high fuel and food prices. We can’t stop to wonder loudly what has since changed since April.
Cofek has a petition no. 88 of 2011 in the high court against the Ministers of Finance, Energy, ERC and NOCK on high fuel and food prices. We have enormous trust and confidence in the Judiaciary to offer Kenyan consumers a reprieve.
Rather than resort to counter-productive industrial strikes, Cotu should have joined Cofek in demanding for better regulation of various sectors especially the energy and finance. The reason we have been asking in vain for the Finance Minister to name the Competition Authority Board to rein in on regulators conspiring with the industry to defeat consumer protection issues.
Cotu would have added more value if it took on cartels possibly aided by its members. The consumer challenge is about corruption epitomized by cartels and which thrive because of a failed regulatory framework especially within the finance, energy and agricultural sector.
Cofek will continue to employ diverse lawful strategies to advocate for the consumers without seeking to strangulate the weakened economy in the manner Cotu has approached the issue.
Coming at a time the country’s economy has had a severe beating from industrial strikes, Kenyan workers must indeed ignore the Cotu call and carry on their lives as usual especially during this festive season.
(Stephen Mutoro is the Secretary General, Cofek)