Written by Carolyn Wamalwa
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Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli has called on all workers to abscond duty as from May 14, 2012 over the new NHIF scheme, claiming that the scheme is being pushed by politicians and businessmen out to fleece poor workers for individual and political benefit.
The COTU secretary general questioned why private hospitals had received the biggest chunk of the fund allocation whereas public facilities were being sidelined with meager allocations.
NHIF is enforcing payment of the rates which will see monthly contributions from workers rise by up to 525 per cent. The insurance scheme which according to NHIF takes effect this month, raises monthly contributions for those earning a gross salary of Sh100,000 and above from Sh320 to Sh2,000 to finance an expanded programme that covers both outpatient and in-patient services to its members.
Those earning between Sh50, 000 and Sh100, 000 will pay Sh1,500 per month while the lowest paid formal sector workers earning a salary of less than Sh5,999 will contribute Sh150 in a structure aimed at having higher paid workers subsidize low-income earners.
This was proposed after the High Court rejected Cotu’s attempt to have the new rates suspended indefinitely and the Court of Appeal declined to grant the union a stay of execution that it had sought as it moved to challenge the High Court decision.
According to the worker's union, NHIF’s board has refused to seek approval or consultations before gazetting the new rates despite recognising COTU's role.
NHIF had argued that the Industrial Court had no powers to hear and determine a dispute filed by COTU.
The secretary general further asked the NSSF director to delink politics from social security fund operations, as it puts workers welfare at the helm of opportunist.
Atwoli urged government to integrate Proper policies to help create employment for the youth, since unemployment is pushing the young to be lured into illegal activities and suffering in foreign countries with the hope of making an earning.
Atwoli also called on government to intervene on the issue of retirement benefits for teachers, to speed up payment of benefits to deserving claimants who have been ignored for long thus wallowing in destitution.
Both the vice president and Atwoli urged workers to shun tribal groupings as the country draws closer to the polls, with Atwoli terming such alliances retrogressive.
Speaking at the function, Federation of Kenya Employers executive director Jackline Mugo called on NHIF to review their proposed medical scheme and address emerging issues on individual contribution so as to avoid industrial tension, and further called on COTU to give room for dialogue rather than resorting to strike notices.
The vice president too asked the workers’ boss to give dialogue at least a month before swinging into action, whereas the Labour minister John Munyes asked the COTU boss to route for harmony in addressing the issue rather than settling for the said strike before exploiting other avenues.
Mugo called on government to create a conducive environment for doing business in order to attract more investors, thus creating employment to majority of youth who have succumbed to joblessness.
She also decried the high cost of living which she said has contributed to increased unemployment as well as high cost of production, affecting the employer too.
Vice president Kalonzo Musyoka advised Atwoli to follow proper channels in his quest to name and shame those behind the alleged NHIF scam to avoid a legal altercation.
The government announced a 13.1 pc basic pay increase on the minimum wage during Tuesday’s Labour Day celebrations, aimed to counter a surging cost of life brought about by the high rate of inflation.
This brings the new minimum wage to Sh.8,500 a month contrary to COTU’s earlier demand that government of increases the minimum wage to Sh.12,000
During last year’s Labour Day celebrations, the government announced a 12.5 per cent rise on the minimum wage alongside a 10 per cent rise announced in 2009 bringing the total to 22.5 percent.
This year, the country’s inflation rate inflation dropped to 13.06 per cent in April, down from 15.6 per cent in March, which is the lowest level recorded since May last year.
The drop also marked the largest margin of decline in two years.
Last week, President Mwai Kibaki made a national address from parliament highlighting key government’s achievements against a back drop of the high cost of living, shrinking job opportunities as well as paralysis strikes in key government sectors.
Unlike the norm during Labour Day celebrations where workers attended such celebrations in large numbers, Uhuru Park Grounds recorded a low turnout of workers, with most government officials including the coalition principles President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila being conspicuously absent.
The International Labour Day marks the day of the international working class with the aim of taking stock of the growth in the labour market and also the economic and social achievements of the worker, with today’s celebration being the second since the promulgation of the new constitution in the country.
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