KNPSWU: Championing improved Welfare of Private Security Guards
In the1980s, the founder of ‘NIGHT WATCHMEN’ Mr. Sammy Muhanji quit Trade Unionism and joined politics becoming MP for Emuhaya leading to lack of leadership in the union sector. The disillusioned watchmen were not left behind, they too, wanted sectoral representation and on 20th September 1999 Kenya Guards & Allied Workers Union was formed through a Court Award by Hon. Charles Chemutut.” The demarcation orders; compelled all security companies in the Protective Security Industry to be represented by Kenya Guards and Allied Workers Union (KEGAWU)”.
At this point, the Guards had achieved only one thing (Guards Union) but not leadership as all General Secretaries who occupied the seat were drawn from other sectors and NOT Private Security Industry, contrary to the Labour Relations Act. From 1999 to 2006, the General Secretaries had Coups and Counter Coups and as a result had 13 General Secretaries from Mr. Okaka drawn from the Armed Forces to the late Mzee Ngirimani from the Banking Industry.
In 2006, despite contributing immensely to KUCFAW, a crisis emerged with US Embassy Guards over a review of the existing CBA. The Chief Shop steward Bro. Isaac GM Andabwa realized KUCFAW had written to the Registrar of Trade Unions, to implement the Court Order, which then meant that the Union was not a representative of the Guards despite collecting the Union dues from the Security Firms. On realization that KUCFAW had legality challenges in representing the guards, Bro. Andabwa from KK led and pioneered the formation of UNION of DIPLOMATIC INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE & ALLIED SECURITY OFFICERS OF KENYA (UDIPAS) as the founder Chairman.
The Registrar of Trade Unions gave the Union an interim Certificate No. 2006 as it had captioned over 56% of member’s representation from the Guards. In 2007, a deepening crisis in the guards sector persisted, calling for the intervention of COTU (K), the umbrella body. COTU (K) agitating for a Single Union in the sector.
In July 2007, the sitting General Secretary of KEGAWU (the Late. Njirimani) issued a delegate conference notice after a week’ for consultations and mediation with both UDIPAS interim office and KEGAWU. The merger of KEGAWU and UDIPAS led to the formation of KNPSWU. On 26th July 2007 the Minister gazetted the change of Name and Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU) was born with the Sole mandate of representing the matters of Private Security Workers in the Republic of Kenya.
Bubbling with experience in the private security sector, Bro. Isaac GM Andabwa, the CEO and founder of the Kenya National Private security workers Union (KNPSWU), set out to spearhead and fight for workers rights. He has overcome the dark world of hierarchy, fierce power, cartel hurdles and test of life to form a promising Union that has given the private security officers a new hope of life.
The Union, has set structures that have enabled it register over 500,000 active members, addressed the workers’ challenges with their employers such as improved working hours, over time payment, sick leave, annual leave, due process of hiring and termination of workers contracts, discrimination, insurance covers among other terms and conditions of engagement, whose impact is already being felt by members. Mr. Andabwa worked as a guard since he cleared his secondary education in Kakamega high school.
Mr. Enock SK. Cheserek, who by then was the assistant senior commissioner of police at Recce squad, endorsed him to work either with GSU or as a private US Embassy security guard after recognizing his devotion at work. He chose to work with US embassy because of good payment and working environment compared to the GSU.
‘In 1999, I felt that my vast experience in the security sector and leadership ability, would go to waste if I did not do something to improve lives of private security officers who at the time were famously known as “watchmen”, he said.
He kicked off efforts to champion for the rights of security guards facing a number of setbacks. In 2008, KK Security, the company that contracted him as security guard, expelled him from his job that was the only source of income under the ground that he was using the position to campaign and do politics instead of concentrating on his job.
He remained jobless until he was able to secure a temporary job where he earned Sh. 300 per month. A salary that was not able to sustain his family considering the city life.
In 2010, he took over the leadership and immediately embarked on making tremendous changes in the Union. This saw the Union gain more strength, support and trust from the members who are the private security officers.
Over time, the Union is gaining ground across the country, fulfilling its agenda and mission to ensure private security officers gain more respect, justice, fair payment, treatment, over time payment, fair hearing (in case of misconduct at work), insurance covers, leave and sick-leave among others.
KNPSWU has actively participated in pushing for reforms in the private security sector. Through active partnership with like-minded stakeholders, the Union lobbied for the enactment of the Private Security Regulations Act of 2016.
The Act establishes the Private Security Regulatory Authority, which will focus on offering regulations to the private security industry in Kenya. The unionist believes that the Authority will ensure sanity is restored in the murky private security industry.
The Union has signed a number of CBAs with employers of Private Security Guards such as: wells Fargo, 911, SGA, Radar Security, Bob Morgan (BM), G4s among others, while others; discussion and process of signing the CBAs is ongoing.
He believes all the private security workers in Kenya have reached their preferred “Canaan” but says the fight is still on. Mr. Andabwa; a devoted Christian, married and blessed with children is currently pursuing a degree in criminology at the St. Paul’s University to upsurge his expertise and knowledge in matters security. He also pursued a Diploma in Theology at Nazarene University but left half way due to commitments of serving the guards, which he has done diligently and unopposed in office tenure since 1999.