Dispute heads to court as union, TSC talks fail

Kenya National Union of Teachers(Knut) Secretary General Wilson Sossion address press on 31st December 2018 at Ministry of Labour office in Upper Hill,Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo,Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) may be headed to court after talks with the Teachers Service Commission over several issues affecting its members collapsed.

After weeks of talks, through an arbitrator, a Government report has recommended an alternative dispute resolution to the impasse.

Conciliation efforts by Ministry of Labour flopped as both parties held hardline stances in a standoff that threatens to disrupt learning in public schools.

Knut and TSC have differed over promotions, transfers, appraisal tools and professional development of teachers.

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Knut and TSC have sharply differed on these issues. The mediator’s report has faulted TSC on most of the issues.

Labour CS Ukur Yattani appointed Charles Maranga to lead the mediation team.

The team has recommended creation of a joint industrial council to carry on with the mediation.

The report states that 11,950 teachers have not been promoted, faults transfer of union officials by their employer and accuses TSC of not consulting the union on policy shifts. It also accuses Knut of giving inaccurate data.

Contrary to Knut’s claim that 3,094 teachers had appealed their transfers, the team found that there were only 278 cases.

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Knut said 30,000 teachers who had advanced their education to get better pay or promotion had been waiting for the last four years to be elevated.

The seven-member conciliation committee heard that the last time teachers were promoted was in 2014.

“Some teachers are due to retire after serving in the same grade for 15 years despite excelling in their careers and having clean records of service delivery,” said Knut.

Knut had said TSC went against the 2016-2021 CBA to introduce new regulations on promotions. It said TSC should have used the existing scheme of service that detailed career progression for non-graduate teachers, graduate teachers, technical teachers and lecturers.

Without consultation

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“The career progression guidelines were introduced by TSC without consultation, which in essence replaced academic qualifications, thereby denying teachers promotion. These guidelines are not recognised and provided for in the code of regulations of teachers (Cort),” Knut said.

TSC argued that it could not promote its employees based on academic papers only. “Promotions cannot be be based on higher qualifications only, as that criteria contravenes the CBA,” TSC said.

It says the old approach to promotions ended when they signed the July 1, 2017 CBA.

The teachers’ employer claimed the CBA automatically promoted many teachers, beyond the projected number.

The mediation report, filed before Justice Maureen Onyango, says if TSC yields to Knut’s demand and reverts to the old scheme of promotion, positions of school administrators will be abolished and salary conversion tables changed, contrary to the new CBA matrix.

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The report recommends that all promotions be based on the code of regulation, the CBA, TSC Act and mutual documents of agreement between the two parties. “Parties to constitute a joint committee within 30 days to consult and entrench criteria for promotions in line with their CBA, Cort and TSC Act to guide the exercise moving forward,” reads the report.

The parties have also differed over transfer of teachers. Knut claimed a survey conducted last year in schools where teachers had been transferred revealed performance had declined.

The union argued that families had been separated and old, sickly teachers who needed to be closer home had also been destabilised.

Knut wants TSC not to transfer or delocalise any teacher who is its official until the end of their term in the union.

“The programme has been used to bully, harass and intimidate teachers by forcing them to work in environments they are not familiar with and are not used to,” the union argued.

TSC says it will continue to transfer and delocalise school administrators and teachers who are not in the union.

It also termed it a conflict of interest for its senior staff to hold leadership positions in Knut. TSC wants them to quit the positions or assume full time union leadership.

This targets 60,000 school heads, their deputies and senior teachers. However, Knut has insisted that the law allows workers to join trade unions of choice.

The mediation report says even though TSC should continue with its mandate, transfer of union officials should be within their area of jurisdiction.

“Whereas TSC has mandate to transfer teachers, it is good industrial relations practice that they consult with Knut, particularly where the transfer involves elected trade union officials,” says the report.

It recommends that Knut and TSC negotiate the level of union representation and be anchored in their recognition agreement and subsequent CBAs.

Also, Knut claims it was not consulted over tools TSC set to appraise teachers under performance contracting, which, it argues, demoralised teachers, reduced contact time with children and is expensive.

“The programme is too expensive for teachers who have to spend a lot of time in search for cyber cafes. The programme has also pitted teachers against heads of institutions and the county directors of education,” said Knut.

TSC said Knut was involved in development, piloting, monitoring and review of the performance contracting and appraisal tools. TSC argues the union did not submit its input for consideration. “It is inaccurate for Knut to claim TSC failed, declined, refused, neglected to consult them”.

The report says both parties have not objected to appraisal tools, and recommends they validate them in 30 days.

The union also rejected teachers’ professional development modules arguing TSC failed to consult it. Knut accused TSC of using the programme to promote teachers in disregard to the TSC Act and code of regulations for teachers.

“Knut was never consulted by TSC while crafting teachers’ professional development modules,” said Knut.

TSC said the law did not require Knut’s participation in the programme and that the programme did not bar teachers from further studies.

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KnutTSCCS Ukur YattaniCharles MarangaCBATeachers strike