The prime objective of a union is to protect and advance the interests of its members by negotiating pay rates and conditions of employment (number of hours worked, grounds for dismissal, etc.). Therefore all workers and job seekers have a fundamental right to freedom of association which entails the following: to form a trade union; join a trade union; take part in lawful trade union activities; and be protected from employers or others who discriminate against them because of their membership or activities.

In the case of Kenya Tertiary And Schools Workers Union – KETASWU v Teachers Training College Councils, Kaimosi TTC [2019] eKLR, the court was tasked with determining three issues: whether the applicant had satisfied requirements for recognition under Section 54(1) of Labour Relations Act, If the requirements to deduct union dues under Sections 48(2) of Labour Relations Act had been met and what reliefs if at all, ought to be granted.

The facts were that the claimant had recruited as its members 42 out of 74 unions able employees of the respondent which constitute 56% of all unions able members and had filled a check form containing the names and signatures of the members, which was supported by an affidavit by its Secretary General who also prepared draft Recognition Agreement and presented it to the respondent on 1st December 2015.

The respondent however, had failed to neither deduct union dues nor sign the Recognition Agreement, by claiming that the check form did not give the respondent authority to make deductions from the employees and so it was not effected and that the respondent did not get an order from the minister to effect the deductions. The respondent claimed the union did not seek recognition from the college and also claimed that one signature was forged and three other members had withdrawn their membership by way of writing. The dispute was reported to the Minister for Labour and a conciliator was appointed but the dispute was not resolved.

The court in determining the issues pointed out to the fact that the union had at least 52% of the unions able employees of the respondent even after the withdrawal of four members, this percentage exceeded the 50+1 threshold provided under Section 54(1) as the requirement to be met by a union to demand recognition by an employer and therefore the employer is mandated to recognize the union. The court further pointed out that whether the union had obtained all the relevant documents does not impact the determination whether or not the union had recruited its members by a simple majority as the matter was conciliated upon by the Ministry of Labour which did not appear to question the authenticity of the check-off forms relied upon by the claimant union to demand deductions of union dues.

In the judgement delivered by Honourable Justice Mathews N. Nduma on the 7th of March 2019, the court held that the claimant had satisfied the requirements of Sections 54(1) and 48(1) and (2) of Labour Relations Act and the respondent is bound and directed to recognize the claimant union forthwith and commence deduction of union dues from the salaries of all the listed members of the claimant in the check-off forms presented to it by the claimant union.

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