His Recent Escapades Include Advocacy for Strengthening NSSF Compliance and Opposes Scrapping of Labour Court
The Secretary-General of the Central Organization of Trade Unions (COTU), Francis Atwoli, has called on the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) to enhance its enforcement and compliance departments for improved collections. At a consultative meeting between COTU and NSSF in Kisumu on Saturday, Atwoli emphasized the need for Kenya to learn from Tanzania’s stringent compliance measures.
Despite a 500% increase in NSSF collections since the implementation of the NSSF Act of 2013, reaching Sh5.7 billion per month from Sh1.7 billion, Atwoli expressed concern that this falls short of the anticipated Sh10 billion monthly collection. He attributed the gap to the lack of effective compliance and enforcement mechanisms.
Atwoli stated, “NSSF is still running low on collections considering they should be collecting approximately Sh10 billion every month.” He highlighted the issue of counties withholding Sh2.7 billion in remittances, emphasizing that a robust compliance and enforcement unit could address such challenges through imposing fines.
Drawing a comparison with Tanzania, Atwoli praised their stringent compliance measures, stating, “In Tanzania, you cannot pay Sh100,000 today for NSSF and Sh90,000 tomorrow without a proper explanation of the difference. This we have witnessed in Kenya.”
He further argued that NSSF, with effective compliance measures, could contribute to job protection by compelling employers to justify monthly discrepancies in collections, discouraging arbitrary layoffs.
On a separate note, Cotu opposed the recommendation by the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) to scrap the Employment and Labour Relations Court. Atwoli criticized NADCO, stating, “That is outside the mandate of NADCO to recommend the scrapping of the Employment and Labour Relations Court.” He called for solidarity to ensure the proposal is abandoned by Parliament.
In another development, Atwoli criticized the NADCO report’s proposal to amend the Constitution concerning labor issues. He asserted that the committee overstepped its mandate, stating, “The committee’s term of reference was clear, to address political instability in the country and not to interfere with labor matters.”
Atwoli urged lawmakers to expunge the proposed clause during the report’s debate in the House, emphasizing that it was a deliberate attempt by individuals against workers and industrial stability.
Notably, Atwoli has been a vocal supporter of President William Ruto, who recently appointed him as a member of the Social Health Authority, alongside Zakayo Kariuki Gichuki and Jacinta Kathamu Mutegi. The authority, established under the Social Health Insurance Act, is tasked with various functions, including beneficiary registration, addressing complaints, and advising the Cabinet Secretary on social health insurance matters.
Atwoli’s appointment aligns with Ruto’s efforts to implement the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) agenda, replacing the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) with the Social Health Insurance Act. The UHC bills, signed into law in October, aim to ensure all Kenyans have access to quality healthcare, irrespective of their financial status.
Furthermore, Atwoli’s influence extends beyond national borders. He was recently re-elected for his third term as the President of the Organization of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU). Atwoli’s wealth of experience and commitment to workers’ rights in Africa played a pivotal role in securing this re-election.
As Atwoli continues to play a crucial role in shaping labor policies and advocating for workers’ rights in Kenya and across the continent, his recent appointments and statements underscore his significance in national and pan-African contexts. The ongoing debates regarding labor court reforms and the implementation of health insurance initiatives highlight the dynamic landscape of labor and social issues in Kenya, with Atwoli at the forefront of these discussions.