Knut calls crisis meeting on pay row, vows to trim TSC powers

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion during a prayer day ceremony for form four candidates at Kebeneti Secondary School in Kericho Friday. (Nikko Tanui, Standard)
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) leadership has called a crisis meeting even as it reacted angrily to the move by the teachers’ employer to demote its members and deduct their salaries to recover benefits they enjoyed for the last two years.

The Knut Steering Committee will meet tomorrow at the union’s head office to explore options, among them, summoning the National Executive Council, which is the union’s top decision-making organ.

This means the fight could head to the streets if the union’s organs sanction the Knut leadership to call a nationwide strike to restore their enhanced pay already taken away.

Strike threats

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Central Organisation of Trade Union Secretary General Francis Atwoli hinted at the possibility of industrial unrest in the near future.

“I appeal to Education Cabinet Secretary George Magogha and his Labour counterpart Ukur Yattani to convene a tripartite social partners’ advisory meeting to advise TSC and Knut on the way forward. Failure to do so, I foresee industrial unrest that will affect our education system,” said Atwoli.

But TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia has already exonerated the commission from blame, saying they were only complying with the court ruling.

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She recently said the job evaluation done by TSC yielded the benefits enjoyed by the teachers, and that the court orders on career progression guidelines, promotions and transfers have clawed back the gains.

“The commission wishes to inform teachers that it is committed to continuous improvement of terms and conditions of service. This was the essence of the job evaluation and the 2017-2021 CBAs,” said Dr Macharia.

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Labour Court’s Justice Byram Ongaya set aside the contested career progression guidelines introduced by TSC to guide promotions.

Knut had opposed the new guidelines, demanding that promotions be based on merit, seniority, vacancies, academic and professional qualifications.

But furious union officials now say they will push TSC back to the control of the Ministry of Education through Parliament.

“The commission has grown horns but it is only a matter of time before we de-horn it,” said Sossion during a prayer day ceremony for KCSE candidates at Kebeneti Secondary School in Soin-Sigowet constituency. 

“Knut has forwarded to the Building Bridges Initiative the realignment of the TSC to domicile it at the Ministry of Education and the creation of a completely different regulator for teachers regulated by teachers,” said Sossion.

Knut argues that placing TSC under the watch of the State Department of Basic Education will assist in addressing duplication of functions and also reduce the cost of running the ministry.

His assistant Hesbon Otieno said the move by TSC to deduct teachers' pay is against the spirit of the CBA.

“TSC cannot act haphazardly and assume they are superior to the courts. They should have called us to sit and discuss the court orders,” said Otieno.

He said it is ill-informed for TSC to incite teachers against the union. “They want to set us up as the bad boys, but why can’t they display professionalism as well?” he asked.

Atwoli described TSC’s actions as unfair industrial relations practice.

“The government must come in to end this because what TSC is displaying portrays Kenya as a state that has no industrial relations machinery to handle trade disputes,” said Atwoli.

“Teachers should not be punished for belonging to a union,” he said.

The officials spoke as a detailed breakdown of the huge loses revealed that all teachers, including chief principals, have been affected.

Heavy investments

Chief principals who are in administrative positions under Job Group Q, R (grade B5) and earn Sh129,528 have all missed out on the pay increase.

Secondary school teachers who are also administrative officers under Job Group K at salary points one to seven (Grade C2) who earned between Sh34,955 and Sh43,694 have also missed out on the pay rise.

Primary school teachers under job group H at salary points one to six (or Grade C1) who earned Sh27,195 have also missed out.

Also missing out are primary school teachers under job group G at salary point one to six (of grade B5) and earned between Sh21,756 and Sh27,195.

Knut argued that teachers missing out on the payments have invested heavily to acquire academic qualifications while others have gathered rich experience in the teaching career.

Sossion said the CBA is a legal document deposited in court and that none of the parties can single-handedly amend it to scrap sections without involvement of all signatories.

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Kenya National Union of TeachersTeachersKnutTSCNancy Macharia