Tracy Adhiambo is a secretary for the Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers. Last year she was part of a youth group that received strategic ICT training from IFWEA through a collaboration with IndustriALL. Part of the training involved learning how to make a database for Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) – which Tracy went on to develop for her union. She talks about the experience, and how she came to be involved in her trade union:
Please tell us about your background?
I am 29 years of age, married and a mother of one beautiful girl. I was born and grew up in Mombasa, Kenya where I schooled my primary and secondary level education, and thereafter was admitted to the University of Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenya where I pursued a degree in Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Sociology. My dream since I was young was to be an accountant, due to my love of mathematics, so on top of the degree I took an accounting course called Certified Public Accountant (CPA). I am yet to complete the same.
After my degree, I did a three-month internship at Kenya Power and Lightning Company (KPLC) in the Finance Department then worked as a Cashier in Quick Mart Supermarket before I joined Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers.
How did you get involved in trade union activities? And why?
Like any other young person, after school, I was searching for a job and I was applying randomly. I remember I had applied for the position of an accountant at Amalgamated Union, and I didn’t get the position – only to be called after three years to be a secretary! When I was called for the position, I was working at the supermarket under very poor working conditions – long hours, little pay – and I really wanted to be out of that place. At the supermarket, there were other workers who had joined a union and then they were all laid off. From them I learnt about unions, and how they benefit workers.
So when did you officially join Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers?
I joined Amalgamated Union of Kenya Metal Workers on 29 August, 2020 and I can attest that it is the best place to work compared to my previous employment!
What does your role entail?
As a secretary, I perform the below duties:
- Answering calls, taking messages, responding to emails and handling correspondence.
- Maintaining diaries and arranging appointments.
- Typing, preparing and collating reports.
- Organising and servicing meetings (producing agendas and taking minutes)
- Managing databases.
- Any other duty assigned by the General Secretary.
Tell us about the database you created – did you start it in the IFWEA ICT workshop?
I learnt about it at the Youth ICT Workshop that took place in Kenya last year. The training was the perfect solution for data storage in my position. Immediately when Cde Saliem (Saliem Patel, IFWEA Programme Manager) taught us I said to myself that I have to save the important documents at the office using that knowledge. Just one year after I joined the union, my desktop broke down and we lost a lot of very important documents. It really gave me a hell of work because I had to retype all documents that were needed and were lost. We had shared some documents via email but it was hectic again retrieving them especially when an urgency arose.
And how did you continue? What steps did you take?
I felt it was very important to get inputs from the union officials because they use the documents mostly. I interviewed them on a personal level regarding the most important documents that they felt were important in their day-to-day duties, and might be required even ten years to come. Most of them mentioned the CBAs and Recognition Agreements. I created the database for the two and then shared them. The union officials appreciated this, and then suggested that the CBA Certificates are equally important because sometimes for legal proceedings the CBA Certificate must be produced. So, I edited the same to include the CBA certificates.
How will your organisation use this?
This has already saved us from fear of data loss. Secondly, the documents are saved together, like the CBAs and their respective CBA Certificates, which saves time. It’s a matter of viewing and downloading where necessary. One thing about Google forms, it updates itself once you add data, which is very effective.
What other useful skills did you learn in the ICT programme?
Digital Administration and Information Management Skills for various fields of trade union work such as:
- Organising and representation at work.
- Collective Bargaining.
- Alliance Building.
- Social Dialogue.
And how will you implement this in your organisation?
As Amalgamated Union, we have started digital organising and recruitment of workers. We have an app (Amalgamated Union App) for informal workers which has more information on the union and how it helps the workers, and they can be recruited digitally. This is also a digital way of campaigning.
Secondly on social dialogue, we have on going monthly training of shop stewards from different companies which will be taking place throughout the year. Shop stewards are trained on CBA negotiation skills and how to use platforms like Zoom and Teams. Of late, we have been having Zoom meetings with shop stewards as well as the Human Resource manager instead of meeting in their offices. This has really saved time on our side.
Much more was learnt and we are yet to implement.
Otherwise, I take this opportunity to appreciate the initiative of the ICT Training Workshop for the youth. It was an eye opener for us!