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Hopes Rise For Labour Pact Signing

By Waweru Mugo, The Daily Nation, 13 March 2001

The government yesterday raised hopes that the Industrial Charter will be signed soon.

The signing was put off recently after employers and workers' representatives protested at their exclusion from the National Social Security Fund board.

But yesterday, Labour Minister Joseph Ngutu said a breakthrough was imminent in ongoing negotiations between the government, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions and the Federation of Kenya Employers.

Mr Ngutu said: "We are streamlining everything. We will be signing the (industrial) charter very soon."

And as Mr Ngutu made the remarks, Cotu went a notch higher in its lobbying to be "adequately represented" in the board, threatening to seek redress in court.

The workers' group alleged the decision to lock it and the FKE out of the board was aimed at averting any dissent and to enable the siphoning of funds from the NSSF by "politically well-connected" individuals.

However, the Cotu treasurer-general, Mr Joseph Bolo, welcomed the dropping of general-secretary Joseph Mugalla.

Mr Bolo recalled that the NSSF lost billions of shillings in dubious projects during Mr Mugalla's time as member.

Cotu wants to be represented on the board by two delegates. It called for the revocation of the selection of Mr John Katumanga and Mr Suru Tanna to join the board.

Mr Katumanga is the chairman of the Kenya National Union of Teachers, while Mr Tanna is his counterpart at the Kenya Association of Manufacturers.

At a function to relaunch the charter at the Ministry of Labour offices 10 days ago, Mr Mugalla, the FKE chairman, Mr Wilfred Kiboro, and the executive director, Mr Tom Owour, declined to sign the document in protest.

Yesterday, Mr Bolo told the Press, "They (Knut and KAM) are not contributors to the fund! Katumanga and Suru must be removed from the board as they do not represent workers!"

He added, "But it is very welcome to drop Mr Mugalla. He was a member who never spoke against the rampant looting of workers' benefits."

He claimed the government was intent on siphoning funds from NSSF to finance the 2002 General Elections.

But Cotu would not allow continued loss of the Funds' money, Mr Bolo who is also the general secretary, Kenya Shoe and Leather Workers Union maintained.

He demanded that the minister writes to Cotu requesting the nomination of two people from the union.

"If they (government) do not comply, we will go to court... to stop the NSSF operations till our demands are met," he went on.

Mr Ngutu on the other hand told the Nation, "We are streamlining everything. We will be signing the (industrial) charter very soon."

The charter, which Mr Bolo described as the best for Kenya workers is aimed at resolving industrial disputes faster and without lengthy recourse to the Industrial Court.

It would also have regulated the relationship between the government, employers and employees.

Copyright 2001 The Daily Nation. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).