Wilson Sossion on why the State wants him out of union
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion has opened up on why he thinks the government wants to hound him out of the union’s leadership.
Mr Sossion said the crackdown on the labour movement is aimed at propping up weak leaders who cannot challenge the Jubilee government on bad policies or negotiate on behalf of workers.
He said since 2015 when he led teachers to a national strike to demand a 50-60 per cent salary increase, the government has been looking at ways of taming him.
During the period, Mr Sossion snubbed a meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto at State House but which was attended by then chairman Mudzo Nzili among others.
The teachers were later awarded Sh54 billion spread over four years even though they had demanded more.
Mr Sossion, now an ODM nominated MP, told Sunday Nation that since then, the government has never been comfortable with him and has always wanted “friendly” officials at the union.
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He maintained that he had no regrets for snubbing the meeting in 2015.
The official has on several occasions questioned some government policies attracting criticism from government.
Last week, Labour Cabinet Secretary Phyllis Kandie directed Mr Sossion together with 10 other trade unionists who were elected to various positions during the August 8 election to quit leadership positions in unions so that they can concentrate on politics.
The move was seen as an elaborate plan by the government to kick out Mr Sossion from the Knut leadership since the union was holding its 60th annual General Delegates Conference in Mombasa.
The delegates have the power to sack any official.
The gazette notice has since been quashed by the Labour Court following an application by the union’s leaders on Friday.
Mr Sossion accused three senior government officers at Ministry of Labour and Harambee House of working with Knut officials from Central region to cause havoc in the union.
He told Sunday Nation that his firm stand on the rights of teachers is the source of all his problems.
He claimed that a meeting to plan on how to disrupt the annual delegates’ conference in Mombasa took place last week.
However, he declined to name participants.
“The meeting was aimed at strategizing on how to disrupt our ADC. Branch officials from central Kenya were given money to cause chaos but they did not succeed,” said Mr Sossion, who called on the government to work with unions instead of undermining them.
The Knut secretary-general said the government was running scared of the influence the trade unionists are likely to wield in Parliament.
“We are a strong team now and ready to push for the welfare of workers and that is what the government does not want. In Parliament we have raised our stake and we will no longer be intimidated by the government or the Teachers Service Commission (TSC),” said Mr Sossion.
He said the government wants to tame unions so that they do not have strong bargaining power since influential officials will have quit.
The MPs who were elected or nominated to Parliament include Bungoma Woman Representative Catherine Wambilyanga, who doubles as Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education (Kuppet) gender secretary, Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui, who is Kuppet’s assistant treasurer, Mr Tom Odege, who is the MP for Nyatike and the current secretary-general of the Union of Kenya Civil Servants.
Others are Mr Omboko Milemba (MP Emuhaya and Kuppet national chairman) and Kericho Women Representative Florence Bore (former Kuppet Kericho branch gender secretary).
Mr Sossion asked Kenyans to remain firm, saying the labour movement in the country is under attack from the government that wants to silence everybody.
“We have seen attacks that have been directed at civil society organisations, the media has also been under attack. The Judiciary has not been spared either, religious organisations have ceased to be part of institutions of advancement of social justice and democracy.
“Parliament is now under the control of the Executive, last existing institution that is still free is labour movement and that is why the government is fighting us,” said Mr Sossion.
He went on: “We will not give up and we are asking the government that instead of sponsoring rifts and confusion in unions, they should engage unions and have acceptable good industrial relations. This is because our interests are about workers welfare.”
Mr Sossion said the government has been using all means to silence him including use of police, citing a summons from Directorate of Criminal Investigations in 2015 over his call on teachers to stay away from North Eastern region over insecurity.