Teachers wishing to return to Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) can now do so after the employer opened the registration portal.
Teachers Service Commission (TSC) reopened the Third Party TPAY portal where teachers can visit to exit or rejoin unions and associations.
This means teachers who will be inspired by the new leadership at Knut may wish to return to the union, whose numbers have dropped to about 16,000 members.
Insiders however say this is a major blow to the new Knut leadership which had hoped that TSC would restore union members' roll as it were in June 2019.
By this time, Knut had some 187,471 members, giving the union some Sh144 million in union dues.
However, in July and August of the same year, Knut received zero union dues as the tiff between the union and employer intensified.
When TSC sent dues in September (2019), Knut only received Sh83.9 million from some 115,637 members.
The membership further reduced to 110,000 in October and 105,000 in November.
Again Knut did not receive any union dues in December. And as the year turned to 2020, membership had also shifted to 103,030 by end of January.
The membership numbers continued to decline to date when Knut only has 16,000, raking in about Sh12 million.
Knut Deputy Secretary-General Hesbon Otieno said opening the portal is the first step to restoring the union.
“Teachers who believe in the union and the new team now have a chance to come back. This even as we still engage the employer on other ways of navigating these challenges,” said Otieno.
He said the union will aggressively embark on a drive to bring back its members.
As fights between TSC and Knut intensified in August last year, the union accused the teachers’ employer of opening the portal and compelling members to exit the union.
Appearing before the National Assembly Education Committee in August 2020, Knut told MPs that TSC used the digital validation process to attack its membership register and also using the CBA as a dangling carrot to push teachers out of the union.
Union said that in some cases, TSC transferred Knut post-primary members to Kuppet and forced them to pay agency fees. The presentation was made by Otieno.
However, in its report to the MPs, TSC Chief Executive Nancy Macharia explained to MPs that teachers left Knut after it emerged that a court ruling on Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) that was being rolled out by the employer denied them new salary benefits.
Dr Macharia said the Commission was unable to act against the court ruling.
“When the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed, it introduced a new grading system for teachers known as Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) which replaced the Scheme of Service. But Knut challenged the implementation of CPG in court,” said Dr Macharia.
The effect of the court ruling meant that all Knut members could not benefit from the third and fourth phase of the multi-billion salary raise and promotions.
“To comply with the resultant Court orders, the Commission undertook teacher promotion in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code of Regulation for Teachers (Cort) and the Schemes of Service for all Knut members and CPG for non-members of Knut.
In his presentation, Otieno told MPs that TSC deliberately engaged in activities that pushed teachers out the union.
Part of these, he said TSC designed printed and directly delivered forms to schools and compelled teachers to exit the union.
The union also said that TSC had set up a desk at the head office where Knut members were manually exited from the union, most of the time even without teachers’ consent.
Knut also said TSC ran parallel payroll to push teachers to exit Knut.
Dr Macharia dismissed the allegations, saying that TSC did not play a role in the Knut register.
Dr Macharia dismissed the parallel payroll claim, saying that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) conducted an audit on the double payroll and noted that it was cleared of the allegations.
Dr Macharia said the Commission acted based on Knut members' requests to leave the union as per the provisions of Labour Relations Act.
“The Commission did not unilaterally remove members from Knut register instead removal of the members is guided by the Labour Relations Act which provides for the removal of a member from the union register,” said Dr Macharia.
Dr Macharia cited Section 48 (6) and (8) of the Act, which says that an employer may not make any deductions from an employee who has notified the employer in writing that the employee has resigned from the union.