Court leaves teachers with no room on strike

Lawyers Paul Muite (left), Kioko Kilukumi and KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion after the hearing of teachers’ case at the Court of Appeal yesterday. (PHOTO: GEORGE NJUNGE/ STANDARD)

The court has ordered teachers to go back to class even as the dispute over the 50-60 per cent salary increment is heard by the Court of Appeal.

Justice Nelson Abuodha of the Employment and Labour Relations Court declined to lift the orders suspending the strike for 90 days and for the second time ordered the teachers to resume duty immediately.

In a brief ruling yesterday, Justice Abuodha said teachers must obey the orders he issued last Friday and return to class before he can consider their application to have the directive to end the strike lifted.

Should they fail to heed the directive, teachers will find themselves in an awkward position of being accused of disobeying court orders, an accusation they have persistently pinned on the Government over failure to implement their contested 50-60 per cent salary increment.

Following the ruling, Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Secretary General Akelo Misori said yesterday evening that they will meet on Saturday to chart the way forward.

“KUPPET will convene their National Governing Council meeting tomorrow to take a position on the ruling,” he said.

The Standard also learnt that KUPPET’s National Governing Council and Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) National Executive Council are likely to have a joint meeting tomorrow with a view to calling off the strike.

Last Friday, after Justice Abuodha suspended the strike, defiant union leaders urged their members to remain at home as they analysed the ruling, which also required the warring parties to undertake to conciliation on how to resolve the dispute that has paralysed learning in public schools for four weeks now.

The judge said should KNUT and KUPPET and the Government fail to reach a settlement in 90 days, they will be at liberty to take any lawful action against each other.

Yesterday, Abuodha stood his ground that teachers ought to have resumed duty as directed by the court a week ago if they wanted to continue enjoying the court’s protection.

“After listening to the arguments over the ongoing appeal proceedings as raised by both parties, I decline to suspend the orders until all parties comply. I therefore decline the request to suspend the orders as urged by the two unions until they direct their members to resume duty,” Justice Abuodha ruled.

He added: “It is after taking into consideration the nature of the dispute that I saw a ray of hope for the children and I therefore urge the unions to advise their members to assume duty.”

Yesterday, lawyers representing the unions in an urgent application had asked the judge to suspend his earlier orders pending the outcome of the ongoing Court of Appeal proceedings.

“This case is unique and peculiar because of the nature of controversy between the parties in dispute. In the light of the ongoing proceedings at the Court of Appeal we urge this court to exercise caution so as to avoid a situation of parallel appeals on the same subject matter,” lawyer Harun Ndubi argued.

Ndubi urged the court to rule in favour of the two unions as the Government, too, had also not complied with the same orders as directed by the court.

However, the Attorney General through lawyer Emanuel Bitta strongly opposed the unions’ request on grounds that its members have failed to comply with the orders requiring them to go back to class.

“It will be illegal for this court to proceed and hear the union’s request since they have defied the orders that you gave. The two unions are aware that the orders were made bearing in mind the rights of children yet they have not complied,” lawyer Emmanuel Bitta said.

In the Court of Appeal, unions asked the five judges to withhold their judgement until its orders are complied with. The court had directed the Government to honour the pay raise beginning August 1 pending conclusion of the matter.

Lawyers Paul Muite, Kioko Kilukumi, John Mbaluto and Judith Guserwa in separate submissions argued the State had money, but was only playing hardball using the children as bait.