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PUSETU’s fate in Labour Day fete sealed

Workers march during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Nairobi on May 1, 2012/XINHUA-File

Workers march during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Nairobi on May 1, 2012/XINHUA-File

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 30 – The Federation of Public Service Trade Unions of Kenya (PUSETU) on Wednesday suffered a setback after High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi declined to set aside orders obtained by the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) barring it from interfering with Labour Day celebrations.

In her ruling, Justice Mumbi Ngugi said that she does not have jurisdiction over the matter since it is before the Industrial Court.

On Tuesday, the Industrial Court barred PUSETU from interfering with the Labour Day festivities organized by COTU, on grounds that they might resort to violence.

COTU, through their lawyer Judith Guserwa had argued, “the respondent union has threatened to hijack the preparations of the celebrations which if effected will bring the workers day and attendants into embarrassment and make the day lose its glamour.”

The Industrial Court further granted restraining orders sought by COTU and certified the matter as urgent and directed the case to be heard on May 7.

A showdown had loomed over the May 1 celebrations following threats by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli that he would not allow PUSETU to, ‘hijack’ their plans for the official national Labour Day celebrations.

“So far nobody has requested us to have a joint Labour Day celebrations committee. So where the minister is getting his joint Labour Day celebrations committee with PUSETU to us is daydreaming,” Atwoli said.

“It isn’t a day when government should say we must… those are things of yester years. Labour Day belongs to workers,” he said.

Meanwhile Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi on Tuesday announced that he will attend the Labour Day festivities at Uhuru Park.

“The usual place… all arrangements are ongoing and it’s going on well so you are most welcome,” he said.

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He also appeared to distance himself from the fight for control of Labour Day between PUSETU and COTU.

“I’m not ready to answer that. It is a workers day,” he said to a question on who between PUSETU and COTU would be organizing the official National Labour Day festivities.

The Labour Cabinet Secretary had earlier demanded that the two unions work together through a steering committee to organise the event.

“They have to sit down and come up with a venue which is going to be accepted by all the parties. So it’s not a one man issue. They (COTU and PUSETU) have no choice anyway by the way, they have to work together,” he had insisted.

It’s not clear if President Uhuru Kenyatta who is in Arusha for an EAC Summit will attend the Labour Day celebrations.


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