In spite of the attacks the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has faced, the giant trade movement remains visible, up to task and strong in terms of uniting all teachers in public service, besides championing their interests and aspirations.
Arguably, the trade movement is still the union of choice among teachers, and this is due to the manner in which it executes its business and functions in protecting and defending the interests of teachers and mediating between them and their employer – Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
The union has been extremely effective in gluing together teachers for the purpose of having a strong collective voice and influence on labour matters.
The union, despite being undermined by ‘dark forces’, has continued to successfully negotiate wages, working conditions and terms of service for tutors with TSC. Moreover, it continues to regulate relations between tutors (members) and the employer.
And, despite existence of an elaborate scheme to weaken Knut leadership, the trade movement has taken collective action to enforce terms of the first-ever Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 60 years of Knut existence.
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At this point in time, it is worth noting that Knut was the brainbox behind the 2017/2021 CBA.
The union has been lauded on several occasions by reputable international agencies like International Labour Organisation, Unicef, Unesco, Education International, among others, for championing labour and professional matters of interest to teachers.
Knut continues to attract the admiration of regional and international organisations for being the first teachers’ union to outline the role of teachers’ unions in education reforms.
One of Knut’s outstanding achievements in recent past was assisting TSC craft a well-structured system for negotiating and implementing CBAs.
Hiccups and mischief
Though the employer has violated some components of the 2017/2021 CBA, Knut believes the initiatives put in place by Parliament to restore order and sanity at TSC regarding implementation of the 2017/2021 agreement will address the commission’s hiccups and mischief.
By reaffirming its commitment to maintain a collaborative and collegial relationship with TSC aimed at realising quality teaching service and continuous improvement of terms and condition of service for tutors, Knut has encouraged teachers to remain serious in their work
And to meet the needs of a progressive and forward-looking teaching service, the union has always engaged TSC, Ministry of Education and other line government agencies to draft all-inclusive policies and programmes that would raise educational standards in our country.
Understandably, the union despite a frosty relationship, has continuously engaged the commission to work towards attainment of common aims which include advancement of quality teaching standards through performance evaluation, and more importantly, the development of a system of communication and consultation designed for harmonious industrial relation between the two bodies.
Contrary to views expressed by the ‘dark force’, at Knut we have never had a leadership crisis which could have adverse effects on stability of the trade movement.
What we have encountered so far are evil schemes designed to demean and undermine progressive and incorruptible Knut leadership.
Despite threats of sanctions which have previously worked, the union leadership remains uncowed. What we can categorically state, is that the ‘dark forces’ have become a threat to the union leadership and the wellbeing of the members.
Presently, there is a structured and well-managed system of determining and paying commuter, leave, house, hardship, medical benefits, daily subsistence (local travel), daily subsistence (foreign travel), transfer allowances and Work Injury benefits. This is an outstanding and admirable achievement through the efforts initiated by Knut.
Already, the union has presented to the commission the most progressive and comprehensive CBA for the 2021/2023 circle. If negotiated successfully, adapted and registered in the Industrial Court, TSC will triple teachers’ salaries and allowances.
Besides pushing for better working environment and improved terms and conditions of service, Knut wants the commission to triple teachers’ salaries in the 2021/2023 CBA.
The union wants the lowest paid teacher currently earning Sh27,195 to get Sh65,268, progressing to Sh87,024 with effect from July 1, 2022.
The union has also proposed that the highest paid teacher (Chief Principal) to earn Sh289,036 from the current Sh131,380 per month, progressing to Sh394,140 per month with effect from July 1, 2022.
Teachers’ unions have a great role to play and are central if the country is to attain Education 2030 Agenda as fronted by Unesco – famously referred to as Incheon Declaration which was adopted at the Unesco’s World Education Forum – 2015 in Incheon, Republic of South Korea.
The role of teacher unions in reforming education is of utmost significance. The government alone cannot achieve everything in the field of education.
The support of interested stakeholders in education such as teacher unions is therefore desirable. Consequently, unions are obligated to be central to education reforms.
The intervention of Parliament to help end the long-standing labour disputes between the union and the commission is welcome and highly appreciated.
For instance, the directive by Parliament, ordering TSC to reinstate 130,000 teachers forcefully removed from Knut membership register will give the union its past numerical and financial muscle.
A sub-committee proposed by Parliament to reconcile the commission and the union will break the ice as it will greatly assist the two agencies to iron out issues that have poisoned industrial relations between the teachers and their employer.
This includes running two parallel payrolls, one for Knut members who are discriminated against in terms of salary increment, and the other for non-Knut members who are greatly favoured – they are promoted and their pay packages enhanced accordingly.
It has always been our position that all teachers in public service should benefit from the 2017/2021 CBA. Moreover, teachers should be promoted based on the Code of Regulations for Teachers.
The schemes of service as illustrated in the code is the guiding light in conducting promotions.
We fully agree with Parliament that TSC should draw up career progression guidelines and submit them to the august House for approval.
We share the same position with Parliament that all teachers in the public service should benefit from the CBA irrespective of the union they belong to.
The money for salary increase (Sh54 billion) was budgeted for and approved by the National Assembly, hence no teacher should be denied salary increment.
Mr Sossion is an MP and Secretary-General, Knut