Francis Atwoli after being re-elected as Secretary-General of COTU for a fifth term in Kisumu, April 9, 2021. [Collins Odour, Standard]

Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli says the Covid-19 pandemic has plunged millions of workers into joblessness.

Speaking during Labour Day Celebrations at State House, Nairobi on May 1, 2021, in an event attended by President Uhuru Kenyatta, Atwoli said workers have little to celebrate as the pandemic has impacted jobs and affected livelihoods.

Lauding President Kenyatta’s economic stimulus measures, Atwoli said the interventions reduced the adverse effects of the coronavirus crisis on workers.

“As COTU, an umbrella body of workers in the country, we will work closely with your Government to make sure that we steer our economy to higher heights in order to address the job losses that we have all witnessed as a result of this pandemic,” he said.

Addressing how Covid-19 negatively impacted the agricultural sector, regarded as Kenya’s tax backbone, Atwoli said access to markets was key in stimulating production, and cushioning workers and industries from Covid-related trade losses.

“I thank you for having made a budget allocation during this time of Covid-19 to the agricultural sector by ensuring that there is cargo space for farmers’ exports,” said Atwoli.

Atwoli said a joint partnership entered into by the Federation of Kenyan Employers, COTU and the National Government ensured workers’ job security wasn’t threatened.

“When we realised that Covid-19 was a big problem, these organisations developed and signed a tripartite agreement which provided for job security and assured worried workers that they will not lose their jobs,” said Atwoli.

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Explaining how labour movements influenced today’s worker rights, relations and wage advancement, Atwoli said the Kenyan workers appreciate efforts by leaders who put Kenyans’ interests first.

“After having this day and several trade unions, we still have a duty to ensure that workers are protected. We have employers who are still hell-bent on maximising profits without due regard to what workers do at their various places of work,” he said.

The veteran trade unionist warned that corruption has become a threat to national development and service delivery.

“It is through corruption that we cannot obtain strategic medicine and quality medical cover in our public hospitals,” said Atwoli.

The COTU boss appealed to the president to intensify the war on corruption and tackle the vice head-on.

“In this world of digital and e-commerce, we appeal to you not to get tired. Kenyan workers support you. Unless we tackle corruption, we will not take off as a nation,” said Atwoli.

 

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