Kenya braces for transport strike

December 18, 2011 3:27 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 18 – The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) on Sunday vowed that a 10-day nationwide workers and matatu operators strike would kick off Monday as planned.

COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli said that matatu operators would down their tools from midnight on Sunday as they pushed for a 30 percent immediate reduction in the price of fuel.

He has also accused the Matatu Owners Association of ignoring the plight of workers. The strike has been organised in concert with the Matatu Welfare Association whose membership also includes matatu crews.

“We will only be helping matatu owner if the prices on diesel go down. But there are those who are just looking at the profit and thinking this is Christmas,” Atwoli said.

He demanded for the disbandment of the Energy Regulatory Commission saying it is a cartel.

“We did an analysis and found out that for fuel to reach here it costs about Sh52 per litre even with taxes. Yesterday we were corrected and told it costs Sh42 per litre so even if we added Sh30 on top that will come to Sh72 per litre. But how can a Kenyan in Dadaab pay Sh140 per litre? There is no cushion!” he said.

He added that the strike was not political and was not in any way meant to punish Kenyans.

“This is a solidarity strike and we want all Kenyans to join us,” he said.

But the Federation of Kenya Employers last week opposed the planned industrial action and said it was not a solution.

“Workers must know that the actual effects of inflation are as a result of system inefficiencies and high taxes,” the employers had said.

However the COTU Secretary General was of the opinion that reduction of fuels costs would be beneficial to employers especially those who run factories.

On its part, the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) continued to distance itself from the strike, assuring commuters of no interruption of services.

MOA Chairman Samuel Kimutai said a call to paralyse public transportation especially during the festive season surmounts to economic sabotage, adding that those calling for the strike had not invested in the sector.

“All over the world there has not been a successful strike that can beat the high inflation that Kenya is currently going through. The strike has been called by people who don’t own vehicles,” Kimutai said.

The matatu strike would virtually grind the country to a halt as movement is restricted. It’s also likely to open an avenue for unscrupulous people to hike their fares as they tap on the increased demand.

In the meantime, Deputy Traffic Commandant Samuel Kimaru said police would take action on people found to be damaging vehicles in an effort of disrupting services.

“Whoever will use any means to prevent MOA from operating the police will take action. Those intending to strike should not use the same strike to break the law,” Kimaru said.


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