Workers strike has been for years the only language that the Kenyan government understands in the bid to listen to the workers plea for better working conditions, better wages, health benefits and providing aids to workers who are injured or retired. But the current doctors’ strike has been a tough nut to crack; it has been the longest strike in that matter which has seen many patients in the public hospitals innocently suffers. We’ve experienced a series of labor movements (strikes) in the country over the years. The right to strike is not mentioned explicitly in the constitution, but Art.80 (1) protects the right to organize, but explicit activities serve the purpose of the union, such as all activities to protect individual’s interests.
The origins of the labor movements lay in the informative years when a free wage-labor market emerged in the late in the pre-colonial period. From time to time, local unions proliferated in the cities have been publishing lists of prices for their work, defending their rights against low payment , poor working conditions, health benefits and cheap labor. Although the factory systems have been springing up during these years, industrial workers haven’t been much played little part in the early union development in the 19th century; unionism was mainly a movement of skilled workers. The early labor movement was, however, inspired by more than the immediate job interests of its members. It harbored a conception of the just society which fostered social equality, celebrated honest labor and relied on an independent, virtuous citizenship. The transformation of the economic changes of capitalism ran counter to distinct classes, the rich and the poor.
These reform movements might seem at odds appealing for higher wage strictly to wage workers, and eschewing the union’s reliance on the strike and boycott. This has seen it tend to the workers’ immediate needs, and labor reforms to their higher hopes. These two are held to be strands of a single movement, rooted in common-working-class constituency and to some degree sharing a common leadership.
The Kenya tea workers strike happened in 2007 which was undertaken by members of the Kenya tea plantation and agricultural workers union(KPAWU) against Uniliver tea Kenya limited(UTK) over a wage increase which took place in Kericho and involve an estimate of 10,000 worker and ended after an 8% salary increase.
The union sable staff of nurses and support staff went on strike after the management failed to pay them salary arrears granted in 2008, the workers were assured 68 million within a month. Those who picketed at the hospitals included nurses, nutritionists, laboratory technicians, radiologists, subordinate and doctors who were in the affected job groups when arrears accrued. The government eased the standoff when the Medical Services Permanent Secretary released 30 million for disbursement to the workers within a week.
Kenya Airways Staff which includes airline engineers, loaders and other technical staff disgruntled poor and warned that poor working conditions could lead to a disaster. This led to a strike that saw a loss of lucrative African route franchise from the British airways after it suspended flights to several destinations including Sudan and South Africa.
The dispute between Kenya Power and the Union had dragged on for three years and this saw the workers agree on a common agenda to strike saying Kenya power should have had their interests over the years.
Strikes have been rampant in Kenya and the only effective tool that labor workers have used over the years to express their grievances. Sometimes they have used it to pressure the government to change policies. The government should use civilized discussion methods with the labor workers and fulfill their promises in time. this will be significant in such a way that it would have plans on how to do the payments rather than taking huge chunks of money which is unplanned for which would have been used to grow Kenya’s economy. But shouldn’t the government put in place measures in order to fulfill the labor workers grievances in a civilized way in order to counter strikes?
Written by Amina Martha.