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COTU tones down over wages pledge

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) has postponed a planned Labour Day strike that was meant to compel the government to increase workers\’ minimum wages by at least 60 percent.

Secretary General Francis Atwoli said on Thursday that the move would facilitate negotiations with the government following Prime Minister Raila Odinga\’s announcement that the minimum wage would be increased on May 1.

"Whatever happens on May 1, workers should not make noise because we will review it on May 21 to see its impact during our delegates\’ conference in Kisumu," he said.

"We will look into the total package and see where we have gained and where the impact is not very strong."

He stated that the organisaiton would review the results of the consultations nearing the end of next month and decide on the next course of action.

"The government has also agreed that their doors are still open. If we feel that they did not do much as we wanted, then we will go back on the table and negotiate," he pointed out.

Mr Atwoli had earlier said that 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.

He had warned that if the government was not going to increase the minimum wage for workers, they should not even come to the Labour Day celebrations.

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Following the strike, workers had been urged not to go to work until they get further directions from COTU.

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

He said the minimum wage increase would cushion workers from the high cost of living necessitated by increasing fuel costs.

The government yesterday bowed to public pressure and moved to cushion vulnerable Kenyans against rising cost of living, with Prime Minister Raila Odinga announcing a further reduction on the price of kerosene by Sh5.66 per litre.

He told Parliament on Wednesday that the government had removed all taxes and levies on kerosene, following an earlier 30 percent cut on excise tax announced last week by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

However the measures announced on Wednesday will require Parliament\’s approval through a Motion to be tabled in the House next week.

Mr Odinga told Parliament that the decision was reached because increased food prices were responsible for the 60 percent of the total inflation in the country.

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