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Union launches app for organizing Kenyan metalworkers

28 October, 2020The Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metalworkers (AUKMW) has launched an app that will be used to recruit and organize new members to the union.

To join the union, members must download the app on their smartphones, provide their name and identity, as well as the sector where they currently work. The app, which was launched with support from the Solidarity Centre, allows the members to pay union dues using mobile money platforms.
With Covid-19 regulations that restrict large face-to-face union meetings in place, using online platforms is becoming the norm for the Kenyan metalworkers, who organize workers in the automotive sector, steel and metal manufacturing and other sectors. The union is also using online campaigns to end precarious work in the sectors especially the low wages and poor benefits for contract workers.
The AUKMW signed memoranda of understanding in 2019 with associations of roadside mechanics who represent thousands of informal workers. The agreements allow the union to represent the informal workers and to protect their rights according to the labour laws. The informal sector provides vehicle accessories, spare parts and repairs and maintenance for mostly imported used cars from Japan, Korea, and other countries. The mobile app increases the union’s accessibility to informal workers.
By working with informal worker associations, the AUKMW is responding to the “decent work deficit” as described by the International Labour Conference Recommendation 204 Transition from the Informal to the formal economy. The recommendation covers freedom of association, social dialogue, role of employers and workers organizations, and minimum wages, among issues that needs to be looked at to improve the working conditions of informal workers.
Rose Omamo, AUKMW general secretary says:

“Organizing at the big companies is not the same as at the small workplaces. At large factories we reach the required thresholds, according to the labour laws, and sign collective bargaining agreements. But at small companies that are located far away from the cities, we have fewer members that we still need to service them and give them access to union services.

"We are also extending our services to contract workers and those working in the informal sector who often work under precarious conditions. These are the workers who will benefit most from the app.”

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

“The pandemic is making unions innovative and providing them with an opportunity to adopt digital technologies. Recruitment, organizing, campaigns and training now happens online using devices that include smartphones and laptops. Such innovation is commendable and transforms the trade union. The AUKMW is one of the pioneers of harnessing digital technologies to build union power.”