Services paralysed as workers’ protests spread

Striking City Council of Nairobi workers pull garbage bins Monday to Jogoo House in Nairobi, which houses the Ministry of Local Government. Photo/Salaton Njau
Striking City Council of Nairobi workers pull garbage bins Monday to Jogoo House in Nairobi, which houses the Ministry of Local Government. Photo/Salaton Njau 

The protest by City Council of Nairobi workers over delays in effecting a salary increment negotiated two years ago spread to other local authorities Monday, paralysing services.

City Hall workers downed their tools last Thursday, abandoning vital services like garbage collection. Revenue collection was also hit as parking attendants were not available to bill motorists.

On Monday, they collected garbage, only to spill it on major streets within the Central Business District.

In other parts of the country, services remained paralysed after council workers allied to the Kenya Local Government Workers Union (KLGWU) disrupted services.

In Mombasa, operations were grounded after more than 2,000 workers downed their tools over salary increment delays.

The workers are demanding implementation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed between them and the Association of Local Government Employers on October 12, last year which raised their pay.

The agreement if implemented would see the lowest paid workers receive a 36 per cent increment while the upper cadres would have a 30 per cent pay raise. The workers are also demanding a uniform Sh5,000 raise in house allowance.

“The strike is on until the minister approves the CBA, which we negotiated with the Federation of Kenya Employers, the Kenya Local Government Workers Union and the Association of Local Government Employers,” said Nairobi branch secretary Festus Ngari.

He said talks between the workers Nairobi branch union and the Local Government minister Paul Otuoma collapsed Monday after he failed to invite a representative from the Ministry of Labour.

The law requires that the Ministry of Labour arbitrates where the employer and employee is locked up in a dispute.

“We will only report back to duty after the minister agrees to approve implementation of the agreement that increased our pay to between 30 and 60 per cent. The national office will be the one to call off the strike once that is done,” Mr Ngari said.

On Monday, Local Government minister permanent secretary Karega Mutahi said the ministry was not in a position to act until the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) advised on the CBA.

“It is not possible for the minister to act until the SRC gives advice. I appeal to the union to safeguard revenue collections by avoiding disruptions,” Prof. Mutahi said.

He said local authorities were operating under serious financial constraints and may not recover from the revenue losses to pay workers’ salaries for this month.

Mr Ngari said local authorities’ workers were the lowest paid in the public sector and accused Mr Otuoma of attempting to stall the negotiations by directing that the workers consult the salaries commission.

“The salaries commission is supposed to look at future salary negotiations and not pass awards as contained in our CBA,” he said, adding that the KLGWU secretary-general Boniface Munyao would give the way forward after consulting the Labour ministry on the dispute.

The strike comes days after Mr Otuoma dissolved councils to pave way for March 4 elections.

The strike affected city, county, town, urban and municipal councils.

On Monday, only parking attendants collected fees despite most City Council workers having reported to work early in the morning.