Trade unions

All about Trade Unions in Kenya, Trade Unions and Work and Wages, Trade Unions and Employers in Kenya and more on AfricaPay Kenya.

What is a trade union?

The Labour Relations Act defines a trade union as “an association of employees whose principal purposed is to regulate relations between employees and employers, including any employers’ organisation”.

How is a trade union registered? 

The process of registering a trade union takes six months and is provided for in sections 12, 13 and 14 of the Labour Relations Act, 2007, Laws of Kenya.

Registration of a trade union begins when any two persons apply for a certificate to promote the establishment of a trade union wherein the name of the proposed trade union and any prescribed information are specified.A certificate shall specify that the promoter may undertake lawful activities towards establishment of a trade union.

Application for registration of a trade union shall be made to the registrar of trade unions within six months of the date of the certificate issue.A trade union certificate of registration may be withdrawn if the registrar has a reason to believe that the certificate was obtained by fraud, misrepresentation, and mistake or that any person has undertaken unlawful activities in contravention of the Labour Relations Act, 2007.

After obtaining a certificate from the registrar of trade unions, the trade union may apply for registration within six months if they have:

  • Complied with the Labour Relations Act, 2007
  • The trade union has adopted a constitution that complies with the requirements of the Labour Relation Act, 2007 and requirements set out in the first schedule
  • The trade union has an office and postal addresses within Kenya
  • No other trade union is already registered that is sufficiently representative of the whole or substantial proportion of the interests in respect of which the applicants seek registration
  • Only members in the sector specified in the union constitution qualify for membership of the trade union
  • The name of the trade union is not the same as that of an existing trade union
  • The decision to register the trade union was made at a meeting attended by at least fifty members of that trade union
  • The trade union is independent of direct or indirect control of any employer or employers association 
  • The trade union’s sole purpose is to pursue the activities of a trade union. 

How does one become a member of a trade union?

Section 32 of Labour Relations Act, 2007, allows for an employee who is above 16 years to enjoy the rights of membership of a trade union.

A voting member of a trade union must be one employed in the sector for which the trade union is registered and his/ her subscriptions must not be more than 13 weeks in arrears.

Can managers form and or belong to trade unions? 

The level of unionisation of employees is provided for in Appendix C of the Industrial Relations Charter. The charter prohibits persons having authority in their organisations to hire, transfer, appraise, suspend, promote reward, discipline and handle grievances, from being included in the union representation.

Therefore, in view of the foregoing, managers cannot form and belong to trade unions.But managers can form a staff association to protect and promote their interests with respect to terms and conditions of or relating to employment. 

A staff association will never assume the legal status of a trade union unless it conforms to the requirements of sections 12, 13 and 14 of Labour Relations Act, 2007, Laws of Kenya.

Under what circumstances should an employer pay agency fees to a trade union? 

Section 49 of The Labour Relations Act, 2007 provides for agency fees payment to a trade union by an employer after effecting deductions from an employee’s salary 

The process of agency fee deductions begins when management is approached by the trade union to submit names of unionisable employees to them in order to identify the employees who have been employed under terms and conditions of a prevailing collective bargaining agreement between the trade union and the employer. Agency fees are paid to a trade union that has a registered recognition agreement with an employer in the industrial court and has requested the minister for labour requiring the employer bound by the collective agreement to deduct agency fees from the wages of unionisable employees who are not members of the trade union but are employed under terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement.

The rate of agency fees must not be higher than the normal union subscription fees deducted from union members through a check off system.

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