A court battle is brewing between Central Organisation of Trade Union (COTU) Secretary-General Francis Atwoli and Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe.

Atwoli, on Saturday, February 6, demanded CS Kagwe to immediately withdraw a circular stopping medics from remitting union dues or face legal action.

In a circular dated December 22, 2020, sent to Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, the Health CS stated that the decision to stop remitting medics union dues arose from a meeting between the Ministry of Health and Council of Governors a day earlier on December 21, 2020.

Some of the unions that are bound to be affected by the directive include Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN), Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and Union of Clinical Officers (KUCO), among others.

The COTU boss has termed the directive illegal and in violation of labour laws.

“We know some government ministries have a tendency of not obeying court orders. Should this case go to court and if the CS defies it, he will see the full force of the union,” he warned.

He added that Kenya is a signatory to international labour conventions that allow free registration of trade unions, freedom of association as well as entering into collective bargain agreements.

“The government cannot say it will not apply and implement the check-off system which was accepted and put into law in 1965,” said Atwoli, adding that the money belongs to workers, who willingly contribute to their unions.

Meanwhile, the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Nairobi has temporarily stayed the implementation of the circular.

Justice Mathews Nduma Nderi issued the orders on Friday, February 5, following an application filed by KNUN.

This is not the first time that the government is refusing to collect money from members on behalf of trade unions, Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary (KNUT) – General Wilson Sossion is involved in a protracted war with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

The commission withdrew the check-off system for its members in 2019, greatly affecting the financial health of KNUT and almost crippling its operations.

KNUT’s income dwindled from Ksh 144 million to Ksh 15 million against a salary portfolio of Ksh 80 million for over 600 workers spread across the country.