, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 19 – A one-day strike by matatu operators which had largely been ignored, was called off on Monday afternoon after government intervention.
Matatu Welfare Association Chairman Dickson Mbugua told journalists in Nairobi that the industrial action that was planned to last ten days was called off following a two hour meeting with Prime Minister Raila Odinga who gave “assurances” that their grievances would be dealt with.
“We have called off the strike to pave way for dialogue led by a special taskforce that will look into our concerns,” he said.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said the joint team was expected to come up with findings, within the first week of January, before presenting them to Odinga for deliberation by the Cabinet.
He however declined to admit that the planned strike had flopped instead insisting that it was aimed at getting the government’s attention.
“You cannot continue to negotiate under duress so we had to re-strategize to engage the government,” he said.
Matatu Welfare Association (MWA) Chairman Dickson Mbugua further refuted claims that the planned industrial action was a flop.
“In Nyanza 70 percent of the operators heeded our calls; in Central we had 50 percent, Nairobi 50 percent, Rift Valley 50 percent, Eastern 60 percent, Coast 60 percent, North Eastern 70 percent and Western province 80 percent,” he alleged.
However a spot check by Capital News in various parts of the country indicated that most operators had defied the strike call, with the majority carrying out their duties as usual.
Although matatus in some areas of Nairobi kept off the roads in the morning, the transport business continued uninterrupted for the better part of the day. The same situation was reported in Mombasa.
On the other hand, operators in Meru and Nyanza regions continued operating without any hitches.
Mbugua added that the taskforce would also look into the practicability of a demand by the PSV operators, to government, calling for a 30 percent cut in fuel costs, before reaching a way forward.
“We also indicated that we have detailed figures, on the situation on the ground, which could fast track the works of the taskforce,” he noted.
The PM did not attend the media briefing calling off the strike as he had to attend ‘an urgent meeting at the Office of the President.’
Mbugua assured Kenyans of the government’s commitment in resolving the issue saying he was confident that their concerns would be addressed.
“This briefing is not stage managed or fake just because the PM is not here. He had other duties to attend to but this matter is in good hands and within three weeks we will be able to sort it out,” he said.
The taskforce will have members from COTU, MWA, the juakali sector, the Long Distance truck Drivers Association, the Conductors and Drivers Association and the Passengers’ Association.
Atwoli noted that the team would also look at the overall increase in living costs to compel the government to reduce them.
Long distance truck drivers were scheduled to go on strike on Tuesday morning and by close of business Monday, it was not clear whether or not they would go on with their plan.