The environment in which KUDHEIHA Workers is operating has changed considerably over the years. The Union has achieved several milestones and gone through numerous challenges, which have continued to shape its existence. The KUDHEIHA Workers is a union that organizes one of the most vulnerable groups of workers. This is particularly so for the domestic workers. In most cases, the domestic workers are not easily accessible as they work in the confines of private houses and homes, are often engaged without formal employment contracts, and mostly suffer from inadequate knowledge and awareness of their fundamental principles and rights at work. The Union also organizes workers from the hospitality industry, which has witnessed a major slump in business. The slowdown, especially in the tourism industry has mainly been due to insecurity arising from terrorist attacks, and ethnic and political tensions. The hospitality industry has also witnessed considerable amount of outsourcing, contract employment, labour brokerage, casualization, increased informality, and changes in the business model bringing in facilities such as home-stay into play.
The county system of governance has brought with it both opportunities and challenges to the Union. This is mainly in regard to difficulties in signing recognition agreements with the county governments, negotiation of collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), and demarcation challenges with rival unions. Other issues are the contradicting role of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) in the collective bargaining framework; leakages of union dues; disparities in union membership subscription; and partial/wrongful implementation of CBAs.
At the national level, registration of multiple unions in an industry by the government has seen an increase in rivalry and wrangles between unions, decrease in union membership and a gradual weakening of the trade union movement. Further, the anti-union stance by the government has sent signals of union bursting in the country. This is worsened by the weak enforcement capacity of the Ministry of East African Community, Labour and Social Protection, which is functionally responsible for labour matters.
This is the first Strategic Plan for KUDHEIHA Workers since its establishment in 1942. This means that the Union has operated without a substantive corporate development blueprint for the last seven decades. The Union has, therefore, continued to rely on key policy and legal documents–mainly its Constitution and operational guidelines, along with resolutions from meetings as the main operational framework. While several major achievements have been realized by the Union, despite the absence of an overall plan, the above documents cannot continue to be relied upon in the implementation of the Union’s activities. This is mainly because they lack crucial information that is necessary during implementation. In addition, the documents provide little basis for measuring the level of achievement in seeking accountability for results. Further, the aforementioned challenges, opportunities and changes in the Union’s operational environment call for a fresh approach to the way the Union operates if it is to not only navigate the prevailing operational environment but also prosper. This Strategic Plan thus establishes a framework for re-invigorating and strengthening the KUDHEIHA Workers for it to deliver the promise of better livelihoods for its members. This is important as the Union seeks to position itself as a strong advocate of the rights of workers in the hotels; educational institutions; hospitals; domestic services; private homes; and churches and the institutions associated with them.