Top Knut officials plot to kick Sossion out of office

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]
A crisis meeting by officials of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) yesterday set the stage for the ouster of embattled Secretary General Wilson Sossion.

Sixty-two branch executive secretaries from across the country and 19 members of the National Executive Council (NEC) met in Nairobi and formed a committee to oversee Sossion’s removal in the next high-level meeting scheduled for Thursday next week.

Those plotting to topple Sossion - who has been struck off the register of teachers by the Teachers Service Commission - are relying on Knut’s constitution that states that union members must be registered teachers, certified, licensed or authorised to teach.

“Persons eligible for membership of the union shall be only those who are or have been regularly and normally engaged as a teacher,” reads the constitution.

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It adds that one shall cease to be a member of the union if he/ she has been dismissed and his/ her certificate, licence or authority to teach has been cancelled by TSC. 

Yesterday, sources who attended the meeting told The Standard that the officials demanded that Sossion must voluntarily quit the union ahead of the next NEC meeting or face ejection.

It was also resolved that Sossion must stop speaking on behalf of teachers because he is no longer a registered teacher.

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This development puts pressure on Sossion who was blocked from attending a national education curriculum conference officiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta last weekend.

A Government statement revealed that Knut officials had not registered for the meeting even after receiving invitations.

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Sossion did not attend yesterday’s meeting that was held away from Knut head office as he was on an official meeting with the National Assembly Labour Committee.

When contacted, he said he was not aware of the deliberations.

“I am in Mombasa and I do not know what you are talking about,” Sossion told The Standard when asked about the meeting and its agenda.

Multiple sources in the union who spoke in confidence after the day-long meeting said officials demanded that Sossion must stop court battles on behalf of the teachers.

Sossion has previously faulted the de-registration process, terming it flawed. “There is a laid-down process of de-registering a teacher and I don’t think that is what happened,” he said last week.

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Political neutrality

TSC struck off Sossion’s name from the Teachers’ Roll, arguing that he breached the Teachers Code of Conduct and Ethics that requires teachers to maintain political neutrality at all times and not act in a manner that may compromise, or be perceived to compromise, their neutrality.

Sossion was nominated to the National Assembly by the Orange Democratic Movement to represent workers.

Last week, Labour Court Judge Nelson Abuodha allowed TSC to strike off Sossion’s name after ruling that his nomination put him in partisan political activity that went against his employer’s regulations.

Central Organisation of Trade Union (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli, however, came to Sossion’s defence, saying he would continue to serve teachers’ interests even after his name was removed from the TSC register.  

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“As Cotu, we wish to acknowledge that Sossion holds a valid and legitimate position in the leadership of Knut. The ruling does not in any way affect the position of secretary general as he is an elected leader, nominated and voted in by members of Knut,” said Mr Atwoli. 

Yesterday’s meeting was also called to discuss concerns that have lately bedevilled the union, including failure by TSC to remit union dues and denying Knut members a salary increase.

Knut has also not been receiving agency fees totaling Sh50 million per month even after successfully extracting orders from Justice Abuodha in January this year.

The money is deducted from non-union teachers who reap from benefits negotiated by Knut and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet).

Kuppet has been receiving agency fees from nearly 60,000 teachers at a rate of 1.88 per cent of basic pay.

The Standard established that just like last month, the teachers’ latest pay slips did not show salary adjustments, dealing another blow to Knut members.

It also emerged that Knut will go without union dues for the second month even after Labour Relations Court Judge Maureen Onyango last Friday ordered TSC to release Sh140 million.

It emerged that the court orders were secured after TSC had run the payroll, which means that all of the 110 Knut branches will run without salaries for the second month.

This was the subject of a heated discussion yesterday with branch executives saying they will not stomach more frustration. “Some of us have pending loans and defaulting for the second month means we may be listed by the Credit Reference Bureau. We also have fees and rent obligations and we cannot take this anymore,” said an official.

Last month, TSC ran parallel payrolls for Knut members and another for all non-Knut members.

All Knut members missed out on the third phase of a Sh54 billion collective bargaining agreement.

TSC argued that it was complying with court orders that suspended use of career progression guidelines and reverted to the abolished schemes of service.

Labour Court Judge Byram Ongaya set aside the contested career progression guidelines introduced by TSC to guide promotions, handing Knut a major win.

But the ruling was the start of Knut’s misery as teachers abandoned the union in support of their employer. The Kenya Primary School Heads Association and Kenya Secondary School Association have openly opposed Knut’s stand, raising questions about whose interest the union is fighting for.

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