Cotu calls strike as State raises workers’ pay by 13 per cent

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka (second left) and Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli cut a cake during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, on Tuesday. With them is Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi (third right), Labour Minister John Munyes (right) and Kasarani MP Elizabeth Ongoro

By Luke Anami
On the same day that the Government increased the minimum wage by just over Sh900, the workers’ umbrella body called a strike for May 14 to protest new health insurance rates.
The 13.1 per cent increase raised the minimum wage to Sh8,295.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General, Mr Francis Atwoli, served Labour and Human Resource minister John Munyes with the two-week strike notice during Labour Day celebrations at Uhuru Park Nairobi.
Atwoli’s action, captured on live on most television stations, caught Munyes by surprise and he was later seen consulting with the chief guest, Vice President and Home Affairs minister Kalonzo Musyoka. The VP later acknowledged that Atwoli’s move was legal and joked that Munyes would no longer deny having been issued with the strike notice as demanded by law.
Atwoli said the strike would be to force the National Hospital Insurance Fund to withdraw the new and compulsory rates for deduction by all employers even as the Government and Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) pleaded for dialogue.
NHIF Chief Executive Richard Kerich was present at the celebrations and sat through the verbal bashing over the new rates.

Mislead Kenyans
Atwoli accused Kerich and unnamed businessmen and politicians of forcing the new rates on employees saying the cash collected could be misused, especially now that elections are around the corner.
"The new NHIF rates needed prior consultations with the social partners, mainly employers and workers and to date, we have not agreed on the rates and in any case the NHIF’s capacity is wanting and cannot manage the new rates while the situation is worsened by the absence of properly equipped facilities," Atwoli said.
But Kerich later defended the new rates and accused Atwoli of misleading Kenyans, saying the least paid workers will part with Sh150 and not Sh2,000 as Atwoli had claimed.
"Under the new rates, the least paid workers will pay even less than what they have been paying, and Atwoli should not mislead Kenyans that the new rates are unaffordable," Kerich said. "Under the new premiums, employees who earn less than Sh6,000 will now part with Sh150 per month in form of contributions to the compulsory scheme, while those who earn more than Sh100,000 will contribute Sh2,000."
Atwoli’s remarks were sparked off by NHIF’s decision to introduce new premiums following the court’s decision to allow it to levy the rates.

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