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Kenyan court orders Proto Energy to pay union dues

24 August, 2023The Kenya Petroleum Oil Workers Union (KPOWU), affiliated to IndustriALL, won a victory in the Employment and Labour Relation Court in Nairobi against withholding union dues by Proto Energy Limited.  

On 5 July, the court ruled that Proto Energy must remit the dues of 722 workers to the union. The court also ordered the company to sign a recognition agreement with the union in accordance with section 54 of the Labour Relations Act, 2007.
KPOWU organized the workers in 2021 and sent check-off forms and a recognition agreement to the company which they refused to sign. Proto Energy, which employs about 1,000 workers, also ignored written reminders from the union to sign the agreement. 
The union asked the Kenyan government to intervene and declared a dispute with the employer. After the matter went for conciliation, Proto Energy started intimidating unionized workers. To stop the intimidation, KPOWU went to the courts.
George Okoth, KPOWU general secretary, said: 

“Before going to court we tried to engage with the employer through written reminders and social dialogue. After declaring a trade dispute, we went for conciliation, but the employer ignored the recommendations. The union eventually sought legal action after realizing that there was no commitment to resolving the dispute amicably.”

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL regional secretary for Sub-Saharan Africa, said:

“We praise KPOWU for standing up for workers’ rights at Proto Energy. Kenyan workers have a right to join a union and the union has organizing and collective bargaining rights. Employers must comply with the national labour laws and international labour standards and must stop practices that undermine trade union activities and workers’ rights.”

Freedom of association and collective bargaining are protected by Kenya’s Constitution which states that workers have a right to fair labour relations including the right to join and participate in trade union activities. The Labour Relations Act also protects trade union rights and regulates dispute resolution.
Proto Energy, a subsidiary of Africa Oil and Gas Limited, supplies liquified petroleum gas for domestic and industrial use.