Capital: Nairobi
Population: 44.86m. (2014 est.)

Kenya ratified ILO Convention No. 98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949) in 1964 but has not ratified Convention No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948).

Trade unions developed after World War II under British colonial labour legislation, and were closely linked to nationalist politics. The trade union movement remains organised in a single private sector body, the COTU, though a public sector centre also exists, and some unions remain unaffiliated.

Unions have faced strong organising barriers in key sectors, but many of these have been overcome. However, potentially lawful strikes are frequently disrupted by government interference and delay, and strikers are often reported dismissed, including mass dismisssals. Both the civil and criminal law has been used by the State and by private interests against union leaders. In recent years the teaching sector (organised by one of the country's largest unions) has been a site of conflict between unions, the State and private companies.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) was founded in 1965 and was until recently the sole trade union centre. With around 1.6 million members COTU union organise across key sectors of the economy, including agriculture, private security, domestic workers, and textiles. COTU is affiliated to the ITUC. The other national centre is the Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUC-Ke) affiliating public sector unions. In 2018 TUC-Ke lost its principle affiliate, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), with an estimated 180,000 members.

Full details of the country's political history, the development of trade unionism, and contact and affiliation details for all national trade union centres can be found in ICTUR's in-depth global reference book: Trade Unions of the World.

Link to reportFull country profile: Kenya, from Trade Unions of the World (2016)

Link to letterIntervention letter: criminal charges against nurses union leader (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: disqualification from office of union representatives (2018)

Link to letterIntervention letter: defamation law used by company against teachers' leader (2017)

Link to reportIUR article: 'Kenya's anti-union highway', Cortes (2016)



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