Labour and Trade Unions in the globalisation era

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Name of Event

Labour and Trade Unions in the globalisation era


ACLI institute for peace Development and Innovation

Number of Participants

Male 35 Female 32 Total 67

Key speakers profile

●�ACLI member of the presidency

●�Andria(FRom IPSA-ACLI for peace Devt and Innovations

●�Stephen Kanyari-Kenyan trade Unionist

●�Kenyanya - Kenyan Lawyer/Lecturer-catholic University

Summary of Issues covered

●�Gobalisation Ignores social implications and costs.Its is driven solely by profits.Kenyans have borne the brunt of globalisation through World Bank and International Monetary Fund instigations that forced legislation removing involvement of trade unions when declaring workers redundant.

●�There are issues such as outsourcing,an umbrella organisation that support Government and capital owners.

●�Changes have taken place in the production process that lead to loss of jobs whereby employers look for lower costs whereas workers lose out because they are localised.

●�Labour is the only factor of production that is not free to move from place to place.

●�Companies do not have a social responsibility as they answer to their shareholders who are interested in earnings per share(EPS) ●�To match the challenges,trade unions must globalise.

The interpretation gadgets failed to operate resulting in the non-understanding of the Italian presenters.Otherwise the activities and presentations were qualitative


●�Globalization is the way for trade unions if they have to win international legislation that hamper labour's movement while other factors of production can easily and in order to handle multinational corporations so as not to give them room to exploit the poor in developing countires through low pay while paying, for equivalent work,better pay in developed countries.

Full report here:


The meeting was organized by ACLI and facilitated by IPSIA Kenya office. The meeting brought together trade unionists from the North and the South to share their experiences and approaches. The main objective for the meeting however, was to expose the Kenyan trade unionists the world and create for them an opportunity to develop networks and collaborations in their trade unionism. The following speakers were invited for the seminar; 1. Mr. Stephen Kanyari, Kenyan trade unionist 2. Mr. Boaz Otieno, Secretary General –�Kenya Union of Employee in Voluntary and Charitable Organizations 3. Mr. Fred Kenyanya, Kenyan –�Labour laws lecturer at Catholic University of Eastern Africa 4. Ms. Anne Demelenne, Belgium –�FGB 5. Italian Trade Unionist from CISL

The attendance was quite good, both by Kenyans and Europeans as indicated by the list of participants at the last pages of the document.

Each of the speakers was given a minimum of 10 minutes to make a presentations and the audience were given some moments to ask any question or seek for clarification. The opening speech was however done by Soana Tortora from ACLI Presidency.

MAIN ISSUES HIGHLITED BY THE SPEAKERS Even though the speeches of the different speakers are contained in this document, here is just a summary of what each of them emphasized;

Mr. Stephen Kanyari His speech gave a picture of Kenya�s current labour movement situation. He briefly explained what Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) is and its relationship with the Kenyan workers. He pointed out also that COTU is one of the hindrances the Kenya n workers are facing and the fact that it is the only central trade union makes it highly vulnerable to exploitation by capital. He also mentioned about the leadership wrangles in the trade unions in Kenya and the main reason being that in Kenya, trade unions are seen as a source of income and everybody wants to be a leader so that he can loot from the workers deductions. The workers in Kenya on the other hand don�t have faith in trade unions and are least bothered to join any primarily because they are of no value. In Kenya for instance, there are only about 500,000 workers belonging to Unions in a country with more than 10 million unionisable workers. On the international scene, he called for support in terms of finances and ideas on how to face the many challenges that those trying to rejuvenate and reenergize trade unionism in this country are going through. He also mentioned on the urgent need for partnerships and collaborations between trade unionists from the south and from the North.

Mr. Fred Kenyanya His unwritten speech dealt with the issue of labour and trade union laws in Kenya. He informed the participants that for any meaningful reforms in trade unionisms and labour sector to be realized, certain amendments and changes have to be done on the Kenyan Labour and trade union laws. He said that, these laws are very archaic and the spirit behind them was to keep the workers as servants and the employers as Lords, just as it was during colonialism. This spirit and laws still exist today. He gave an example of laws governing strike, whereby the employee has to seek permission from the employer (government) to go on strike and also the procedure to be followed is just too bureaucratic and long. There is also the challenge of trade unions Act that allows only for the formation of one central trade union and the employer (government) chooses its officials. This is more explained by the speech of Mr. Kanyari. Mr. Kenyanya said it is only the workers who can push for the change of these laws because the trade union leaders have failed to negotiate and our political leaders are not interested in these issues. Instead, many want the status quo to remain because they are the owners of capital hence favored by the current legal setting. In his opinion he said, a lot of awareness creation is needed among the Kenyan workers to make them understand the need for them to be actors in their own struggle. He also singled out the challenge of poverty as being the main obstacle to any meaningful struggle among the Kenyan workers. Together with the very high levels of unemployment in Kenya, majority of the workers would rather persevere the many problems and rights abuses they go through during their employment than to engage in and confrontations or bargaining that may eventually lead to loss of the only source of living. In this regard, it would be best to encourage economic empowerment for the poor workers so that they get the confidence to participate actively in the struggle because they have a support mechanism. In his conclusion, he called upon the more developed trade unions to come to the rescue of the Kenyan poor workers by supporting them in whatever way possible especially in the areas of civic and economic empowerment.

Mr. Boaz Otieno; His long speech focused on the multinationals, multilateral organizations and global capitalism. He argued that big multinational companies are finding their way into the third world countries in the name foreign investment while they come to exploit the labour in these countries. For instance in Kenya, the EPZ (Export Processing Zones) arrangement which is build on cheap labour availability arrangements. In the name of industrializing the country, many Kenyans are suffering while working in these industries and factories. He also criticized the WTO (World Trade Organization) as an avenue used by the G8 in exploiting the Developing countries and by extension the workers in these countries. He also said that globalization is working in the favor of the powerful nations and individuals and described this as the new toll for neocolonialism. Multilaterals like World Bank, IMF and others are just but tools for exploitation. His speeches mooted for the rejection of these arrangements and instead, encouraged developing African mechanisms to develop our nations and liberate our people from yolks of poverty and suffering.

Ms Anne Demalenne Her sharing focused on what Belgium has done to empower their labour unions. She said that their labour unions have undergone a lot of changes which are ideological and also legal. For instance, they have it women�s participation in trade union activities is emphasized. They have also taken very seriously the concept of decent work and gender mainstreaming. There are also a lot of trainings and formations going on trying to update their workers and their trade union leaders on the changing concepts of labour and the need for workers rights to be respected and observed.

Mr. Gianni Aliotti (CISL) His emphasis was for global actions against labour exploitation. He also talked of economy of solidarity as a tool that can be useful in economic empowerment.


NAME ORGANIZATION CONTACT Wendy Pekeur Sikhula Sonke - Farmworker trade Union South Africa Kachero Fred Kenya Library Association Gianni Aliotti FIM-CISL Timothy Musikoyo OpenYouth Center Samson Wanyoike The youth together Center Njoroge Samson Youth Together Center Murage E. Maina Youth Together Center Kalumba Solange Youth Together Center James T Marikio Youth Together Center Angela Mutisya I.Y.M, Tangaza College Neola Antonio ACLI/BN Margaret Muthoni FMA Sarah N. Ndung'u FMA Van Lifnevier Eddy FGB Belgium Sr. Monica FMA Sr. Regina FMA Allesadro Sgro COCIS Fatuma Manyenze Kwale Human rights network Hamisi A Mkungu Margaret Chege IBLM Hellen Oluoch IBLM Maina James K FMA V Shakira SAPI -South Acian People Initiatives - INDIA Nyaanga M Patrick Tangaza Elena Gorganni CERAI Gus Alleyne CWU U.K Eddle Beese CWU U.K Ian Ward CWU U.K EmmieKemper Miss Koch, Kenya Jael Amati Groots Kenya Maurice Binoti D.R Congo June Hartley Solidarity Center, South Africa Manila Sihi AIDC South Africa Aul Duafu Bloco de Esplude - Portugal aul.duafo@be James Okoth Kenya Workers Rights Network James Bruce Christopher Savali One stop Youth Center Fausto Garduni UNA Swola Per La Vita Sareeda Cali UNA Swola Per La Vita Carlos Fennandez Jobs with justice GCJ Marry Anne Bwinnett Aisha Lorgat University of Kwazulu Moses Were Kenya polytechinic Fl. S. Ceny defar LMA. Sri Lanka Fred Kenyanya Labour laws lecturer Boaz Otieno Kenya Union of Employees of Voluntary Stephen Kanyari Trade Unionist Fredrick Otieno Sacred Heart Ronalo Calw Individual Masielo Matteo FIM-CISL Corra Renzo FIM-CISL Riva Renato CISL - Vilenza Italy Antonio Zorzi FIM-CISL Sergio Marelli Ass ong it/ focsw Flore Dionnian Anicideibanbini Zacharie Arnaud CNCD Richard Daniel FGTB Eric Venes CG - FGTB eric.nemes@accg-be Anne Demelenne FGTB Marta Ruit Maria Benere Rotti Comboni Missionary Sisters Francesco Pierli Institute of Social Ministry Anna Hellstrom Swedish Transport Workers Union Alessandro Marchetti CISL Bergamo, Italy Jacques Toiser Altec Frill jacques.toiser@free.w Jorgen Hellstew LC - Sweedish Trade Union Cont. Sandra Willson LC - Sweedish Trade Union Cont. South District Illrika Oruegren LC - Sweedish Trade Union Cont. South District Henrik Tuarn LC - Sweedish Trade Union Cont. South District Malin Suensson LC - Sweedish Trade Union Cont. South District Nomkhosi Xulu University of Kwazulu Natal - IOLS research Diallo Mussa Elizabeth Cordeaa El Manar Esslini




Ladies and gentle men, we in Africa in general and Kenya in particular feel enormously honored to host this very important global Forum and to share information and experiences of our lives with our sisters and brothers from various parts of the world with a view to adopting a common integrated approach in confronting the challenges facing the majority disadvantaged people of the world in pursuit of their social and economic needs and political empowerment.

In a globalized village which the world is fast becoming if it has not yet become, social injustice and economic hardships (fro the majority of people in the world) have transgressed almost all territorial boundaries, as the minority of the people who are economically empowered and capital owners world over continue, with impunity, to exploit world resources for their ungodly huge gains, to the detriment of the majority.

Inequitable distribution of the vast global wealth has lead to extreme and shameful material poverty and other forms of human deprivation for billions of people across the world and, therefore, denial of basic and social liberties. It is for this reason that all people and institutions of goodwill need to come together and face these challenges in a globalized manner.

World Social forum represents a global awakening to the afflictions visited on the majority by capitalism and God-inspired desire to redress the situation. For us in Kenya and in deed the whole of Africa, WSF is not just an event, but a blessing and a golden opportunity for us to take a critical re-look at our societies and make firm commitments towards abject-poverty eradication and total emancipation of the victims of the existing socio-economic imbalance.

Together, we have to confront head-on governments’�policies and systems, local and international institutions which, in the name of economic development, encourage and even facilitate greedy accumulation of wealth by a few at the expense of the majority. With renewed vigor and purpose, we have to sit down capital owners and drive into them the sense that it is neither in their long-term interest nor in the interest of the entire humanity, for a few to live in a tiny island of affluence surrounded by a turbulent ocean of deprivation. Ultimately the island will sink.

As globalization takes shape and form as one global capitalistic economy driven only by scrabble for higher profits for the capital owners, almost ignoring social implications and costs, workers all over the world need each other in an independent Global Labour Movement. A globalized institutional movement free from governments’, capital owners’�and capitalistic oriented international institutions’�control or influence. A movement that will articulate workers socio-economic aspirations from a global perspective.

In Kenya, workers and their families and dependants have borne the full brunt of globalization since the early 90�s when at the goading of the capital owners, and pressure from I.M.F and World Bank, the government introduced a piece of legislation in our statutes that effectively shut out Trade Unions from involvement in the process of declaring workers redundant. This law still exists in the statutes as section 16A of the Employment Act Cap 226 Laws of Kenya. The laws enables capital owners to lay-off workers however unjustified it might be, with no questions from any quarters.

Workers have therefore been declared redundant in their thousands in the name of restructuring, privatization, liberalization and downsizing thereby causing unmitigated suffering to these workers and the families they support.

Another distressing practice by employers in Kenya has been of lowly paid casual workers for jobs that are permanent in nature. This enables capital owners to deny these so called casual workers benefits such as medical covers, leave and leave allowances, housing and house allowances, maternity leave for women leave and pensions. The casual workers are also denied job security as their employment is terminated without any notice or payment in lieu of such a notice. To circumvent the law and fair labour practice, employers simply terminate employment of casual employees after just a few weeks of employment, just to employ others, also for a few weeks, from the bloated labour market, and then re-employ the previous or others.

It is now uncommon in Kenya for big companies to lay off workers who are covered by the collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in order to contract other firms to supply cheap labour for the same jobs. This practice is dubbed outsourcing. This practice is a cunning way by employers to escape honoring benefits to workers, as is provided for in the CBAs, without being seen to be violating the same. The big companies claim that these employees brought in by the contracted firms are not in their employer but are employed by the contracted firms, and therefore cannot enjoy the benefits in the CBA.

Victimization of workers for just joining Trade Unions is rampant in this country. Shop stewards very easily get fired for rightly agitating for the rights of their fellow workers. Freedom of association for the workers who seek to form other trade unions of their choice has been fought by a combined force of employers, the government and, believe it or not, the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU). THE WINGS OF SOLIDARITY OF WORKERS have been clipped by capital owners thereby considerably undermining these workers ability to negotiate collectively for better terms of their employment. Purchasing power afforded by the wages employees have been diminishing. More and more workers and their families have been pushed by harsh economic conditions to live in the slums. With the connivance of the government, workers safety and health at their work places have been compromised by employers. Trade Unions have become weaker by the day as their membership dwindles.

Ladies and gentlemen, labour laws that were enacted during colonial era to consolidate and perpetuate colonial exploitation of Africans are largely still in place in Kenya. With such laws at the disposal of the capital owners to use against workers, coupled with only-rhetoric-and-no-action Central Organization of Trade Unions, and a government that is, at best, unresponsive to the plight of workers, the worker is left to the tender mercies of the capital owner.

Trade Unions in this country have been unable to rise to the myriad challenges facing workers in this era of globalization. The central problem incapacitating Trade Union Movement in this era, and even before, is non-other than the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU). COTU was formed and registered by the government in 1965 shortly after independence from the British rule. The capitalistic leaning government formed and registered COTU after dissolving two other labour movement centers namely, Kenya African Workers Congress (KAWC) and Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL) COTU was therefore not a workers idea of a labour movement confederation, but a capital owners’�and government dummy labour center to hoodwink the unsuspecting workers and to kill the vibrancy of Trade Union Movement in Kenya, which ironically, had been in the forefront in fighting for the country�s independence. To this day, COTU has remained loyal to its creators who are the government and the capital owners. That explains why the government has adamantly declined to register a truly worker driven labour movement confederation to rival COTU.

On occasions, particularly Labour Days, all COTU and the ministry of labour and human resource do issue empty warnings against employers who engage in unfair labour practices. Of course such warnings are issued as a public relations gimmick, as the unfair labour practices have continued unabated over the years.

Of late the bills on labour laws reform which have been gathering dust in the office of the Attorney General has become the song to be sung in seminars and public occasions by COTU and the government officials. When will these bills ever become law to stem the tide of unfair exploitation of labour resource? Only God knows.

Ladies and gentlemen, last year (2006) was the year of elections in COTU and all the trade unions in this country. It is widely known that by and large no elections took place. Instead the incumbent officials of COTU and most affiliate unions were registered by the government as having been �elected”�unopposed. The truth of the matter is that those who had wished to contest for various positions but was considered politically incorrect or �firebrands”�were barred from contesting. The import of that is the so called union officials in COTU and affiliate Trade Unions were not elected by the workers and therefore not their representatives but government appointees. Notably one union that is known to have carried out elections democratically is Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), which fortunately, is not an affiliate of COTU. This was an exception

Given the scenario, no one should expect COTU to serve the interest of workers. No wonder Kenyan workers have gone through all sorts of tribulations under its watch.

Ladies and gentlemen, workers rights are human rights. That being the case, Human Rights Organizations have been touched by the cries of the workers and have attempted to assist. However, COTU being a creature of capitalism has been stung by their involvement and has been calling on the government and capital owners to fight them off.

For workers in this country to rise to the challenge facing them in this era of globalization and capital owners dominance, a labour movement center other than COTU is needed and is overdue. A labour movement center that is socialistic in approach to the workers tribulations and challenges and opposed to the capitalistic oriented COTU

The government and COTU have to be forced to accept and embrace democratization of Trade Union Movement, freedom of association of workers and, their right to form trade unions of their choice without interference from capital owners, government or COTU

To realize their dream of a better world, which is possible, workers need the backing and support of civil society in general and Human Rights Organizations in particular.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, I wish our visitors a comfortable and happy stay in our beautiful country Kenya. Thank you and God bless you all

Speech delivered by: STEPHEN KANYARI E-mail:

THE STANDARD NEWSPAPER, TUESDAY 23, 007Industries on the spot for exploiting workers By Otsieno NamwayaThe World Social Forum shifted focus to the original issues that gave birth to the movement six years ago. Delegates took issue with employers and industries for what they said was a serious violation of international labour laws and environmental degradation. Kenyan delegates wondered why the long standing concerns over the violation of workers’�rights by Del Monte, a fruit processing company, and the EPZ companies, which have been in the news in the last few years, have not been taken seriously by the Government. They blamed the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) for sacrificing the interests of the workers and, instead, allowing itself to be compromised into protecting errant employers. "The freedom of association of workers who seek to form other trade unions of their choice has been fought by a combined force of employers, the Government and Cotu. To this day, Cotu has remained loyal only to its creators, who are the Government and owners of capital," said Mr Stephen Kanyari, who was delivering a paper. But Mr Janitor Boaz Otieno, the Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Employees of Voluntary and Charitable Organisations, argued that nearly all the instruments of labour and trade were not sufficiently designed to protect the workers. He said the challenges facing workers today were due to bad policies that have been pushed down the throats of mainly poor nations by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation. "The composition of the WTO is singly Government and that is why all WTO agreements cannot contain the violation of workers’�rights," said Mr Boaz Otieno, who also dismissed the idea that the African Growth and Opportunities Act, a mainly American idea, can be of benefit to African economies and thus the workers. "In the textile and apparel industries, for example, the jobs created under Agoa and EPZs do not respect existing national labour legislations of the African countries, and they are characterised by poor working conditions and low pay," said Otieno, who pointed out that this was, in fact, a violation of the conditions that countries have to meet to access American markets under Agoa.The delegates, according to Mr Kibigo Chege, the co-ordinator of the conference on labour, were trying to establish areas of concerns that were similar for workers in both the poor and rich nations. "That is why this session has brought together trade unions from both the North and the South to discuss labour issues and examine shared concerns," he said. "It is very difficult for trade unions to address the needs of workers in the informal sector economy and thus difficult to get a common framework that will serve workers in both informal and formal sector," said Mr Luca Piazzi of the Italian Christian Workers’�Association. Piazzi singled out the rising problem of temporary jobs, which he said is being caused by the emerging new economy in which employers prefer to pay less taxes and terminal benefits. "This is affecting people�s lives around the world because they cannot afford to do what they would like to do for themselves," said Luca Piazzi. This, he said, presents a problem to the trade unions because they are used to dealing with the problems of permanent workers. He said the challenge they faced as the World Social Forum was that they do not offer direct answers to the problems that workers face. It is an issue that Cotu secretary general, Mr Francis Atwoli, on the first day of the World Social Forum, said would become their main agitation point this year. But delegates dismissed this as a public relations gimmick, because "the union has been so complicit to the misdeeds of the employers and Government." "On occasions, Cotu issues empty warnings against employers who engage in unfair labour practices. Of course such warnings are issued as a public relations gesture, as the unfair labour practices have continued unchecked over the years," said Kanyari. While the delegates blamed multinationals for perpetuating this culture of blatant violation of the workers’�rights, they also pointed out that it was not a problem only for the multi-nationals. "Even the mainly localised employers have taken cue and are doing the same," said Piazzi. The multi-nationals were criticised for causing environmental degradation, with delegates taking particular issue with America�s decision to undermine the Kyoto Protocol on gaseous emissions, saying it was merely a ploy to protect its big industries at the expense of humans.

Documentalist's name

Fred Kachero

Date and Time


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