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Agreements unite formal and informal metal workers in Kenya

“United, One Goal, One Voice” read a banner during the signing ceremony of the ground-breaking agreements between unions and informal workers’ associations in Nairobi on 29 October. The agreements will promote “a partnering framework for parties in addressing the issues of workers in the informal metal work industry.”

The aim is for the associations to affiliate to the union. Among other responsibilities, the unions will represent the informal workers in legal disputes, conciliation and arbitration, address social economic needs, and engage in policy reform to improve the informal economy. The informal workers will also take part in union activities including Labour Day celebrations, annual general meetings, and benefit from training programmes.

Rose Omamo, general secretary of the AUKMW, affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, said:

“When we started organizing the informal sector — mechanics, spray painters, welders, panel beaters and vehicle body builders — we realized that recruiting individuals was difficult and decided to work with the artisans’ associations.”

According to the agreements, instead of individual membership, the associations become affiliates of the unions and their members will get the same benefits as other union members.

Unlike formal workers who can be organized from their factories and workplaces, informal artisans work from different places like their homes, markets and street corners.

The Ministry of Labour, Federation of Kenya Employers, ILO, FES Kenya, Central Organisation of Trade Unions-Kenya, the Solidarity Centre and others witnessed the signing of the agreements.

Research has confirmed that the informal sector contributes to over 34 per cent of the Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product. The informal sector employ over 13 million, or 83 per cent, of the country’s labour force. Workers in the informal sector are mainly youth, aged 18-35, and mostly women.

AUKMW organizes workers in the motor trade, electrical and electronics trades, tyre manufacturing, retreading and dealerships, battery manufacturing, metal industries and the informal sector.

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