Elizabeth Gicheha sounds like a big person’s name the first time you encounter it, however, the tall and slender lady doesn’t command any presence at all. She’s the normal-looking type.
However, as the Registrar of Trade Unions, she commands a lot of clout, seeing that she has the workers on her hand. She commands the Trade Unions.
She has mastered the dark art of Kenya’s elite. The art of impunity and separation from following the law and common sense. The rights of workers’, which is protected by a Trade Union is least of her worries.
Trade Unions in Kenya can just pay a ‘subscription fee’ and they can join employers in ignoring the plight of workers and nothing will happen to them. Not even a court of law or forged documents will overturn he resolved to ignore downtrodden workers.
Trade Unions in Kenya: The Banking Insurance and Finance Union of Kenya
Nonetheless, she is not alone; courts, EACC, her office has been pocketed by the cartels that see it as a tall order to uphold the rights of workers; they see upholding the rights of workers as an obstacle to their ‘dreams’ of owning big cars, having multiple lovers, owning big houses in various locations in the country etc.
Take the case of the Banking Insurance and Finance Union of Kenya (BIFU). Isaiah Kubai, the Secretary-General of BIFU has been at the helm for over 33 years without elections, without branch offices as per the Unions agreement when it started in 1986, without a proper list of members, without a proper audit of accounts (he uses the accounts as his personal bank accounts) and without proper delegates for elections.
In an act of impunity that is supported by Elizabeth Gicheha, when the financial industry workers chose to chart their cause, they elected their representatives, a Secretary-general Duncan Muthusi, his deputy Gabriel Okomo and Organising Secretary Alphonce Were.
The trio moved to court to compel old Kubai to stop corruption and to release (i) audited books of accounts (ii) the Register of Members for both National and Branches (iii) the list of Branch Officials. (iv) Minutes of the Annual Delegates Conference for the last five (5) years and notices convening those conferences. (v) the details of the physical branch offices. They won this case but later found out that old Kubai had supplied them with forged documents.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Byram Ongaya ordered that: ‘The Applicant is hereby granted leave to enforce the order issued by the Commission on Administrative Justice conveyed to the respondents by the letter Ref. No. CM/ATI/FIN/000/9/19 — SNK dated 30.07.2019 and to enforce the order as a decree of the Honourable Court to the like effect of a decree of the Court’.
Kubai is supposed to hand over the offices to the new officials but has refused, emboldened by Elizabeth Gucheha, they march on to their impunity sunset, for time is up.
In the 2016 elections, 19 out of the 27 delegates that conducted the 2016 elections are not members of the union.
The trio also confirmed that no physical branches exist in Coast, Western, Mt. Kenya or Rift Valley. It was later found out, after confirmation from ICPAK, that the purported auditor has not renewed his license since 2014 (it appears that the purported auditor had died in that year, 2014). This means the audited accounts are fraudulent.
At the impunity office of Elizabeth Gicheha, the Registrar of Trade Unions, a case to give the office to its rightful bearers was recently trounced. Not without a ‘subscription fee’.
This is how it happened
Despite the winning the court case, the trio, who now represents the aspirations of all workers under BIFU, have been subjected to further anguish by the registrar.
The Special Delegates’ Conference (SDC) which elected the new officials, Muthusi, Okomo and Were has not been respected. The Registrar threw out their concerns.
Despite non-existence of physical branches as required, the registrar (in a document we have in our possession), supports old Kubai’s lies that they exist.
The registrar goes on to bite and support old Kubai’s lies that her office oversaw election in 2016 in the ‘aforementioned branches and at the head office”. BIFU’s branches are supposed to be in Nairobi, Rift Valley region, Mount Kenya region, Western and Coast region. They only exist on paper. What is impunity?
The physical offices that old Kubai has supplied don’t exist. For example, An inquiry email sent to TSS Building Mombasa confirmed that BIFU is not a tenant there.
“We don’t have a tenant by that name”, the response came back
Elizabeth Gichehs then goes on to accuse the financial industry workers of being late to file complains about the sham coronation exercise of 2016.
She acknowledges receiving the list of members from old Kubai on a monthly basis, but in that list, many names that still contribute to BIFU, but are deemed rogue because they want change for the better, have disappeared. Struck out by old Kubai.
She acknowledges receiving audited books of accounts from old Kubai, what she doesn’t want to investigate even as she has been made aware is that the books of account have been forged.
On misappropriation of union funds, the registrar ignores all the other illegalities.
For a union that takes in contributions of over Sh10million a month, BIFU has remained adamant to the plight of the workers in that industry.
Old Kubai has been in power for the 34 years of BIFU’s existence and had not allowed for elections, as not allowed for opening of physical branch offices in the regions and above all has sided with banks to fire staff that are considered rogue.
Kubai lied to court. He continues to lie and holds hostage the Registar of Trade Unions. He has used Elizabeth Gicheha’s office to frustrate efforts of bank workers to take over the Union and to represent themselves in a proper manner.
Despite her mandate being audit of trade unions’ books, oversee that unions have branches, oversee that branch officials are also delegates oversee that Unions are properly licensed, Elizabeth Gicheha has remained aloof when it comes to BIFU.
The Registrar of Trade Unions, Elizabeth Gicheha has become partisan, for example, in the case of Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), she has often displayed bias which can be read as a tribal thing (Dr Nancy Macharia at TSC), to destroy the teachers’ movement. The financial industry workers should fight on and not let her destroy their industry.
Kubai was defeated in court, he will be defeated at the registrar and the days of a staffer earning sh10k and the CEO billions, will be the past.
According to Ministry of Labour, Trade Unions Sections, The functions of the Registrar of Trade Unions are stated as:
- Registration of trade unions, employer’s organizations and federations and their branches.
- Registration of elected officials after the general elections and by-elections.
- Registration of trade unions constitutions or any amendments thereof and change of name(s).
- Inspection of trade unions books of accounts and records.
- Updating trade union membership records upon receipt and scrutiny of the Annual Returns.
- Preparing submissions and liaising with the Office of the Attorney General on cases brought against the Registrar or where the Registrar is a Respondent.
- General administration of the trade unions under the provisions of the relevant laws thereto.
- Registration of amalgamations of trade unions, employers’ organizations and federations.
- Directing all registered trade unions, employers’ organizations and federations to carry out elections after the mandatory five years in accordance with the Labour Relations Act
- Determination of trade unions disputes arising from their operations in accordance with the law and their constitutions.
- Cancellation and/or suspension of trade unions which are dissolved or have ceased to exist or are operating in contravention of the law.
- Issuance of Extracts (registered officials) of trade unions, employers’ organization and federations upon request
The functions in bold have not been done in the case of BIFU as earlier stated.
Is the interior ministry and Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) aware of all these corruption and impunity?
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