Crucial talks called over strike but knut still firm

A parent selects pens displayed by a hawker along Landhies Road in Nairobi yesterday. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Two meetings have been scheduled for today in a last-minute attempt to avert the teachers’ strike. 

Even as students and parents to prepared for the back-to-school rush, majority travelling after the festive season and after the eight-week December holiday, uncertainty loomed large on whether teachers would honour the Thursday opening date.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), which called the strike, was yesterday playing hardball, insisting that it would not engage in any form of dialogue with the employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), unless its demands were fully addressed.

The conciliatory team formed by the Ministry of Labour and which has been trying to mediate the talks between the two bodies, headed by Charles Maranga, an expert in employee relations, is expected to meet TSC at 8am today.

Later in the afternoon, a joint meeting is schedule with both parties at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection offices.

However, Knut is unlikely to attend the meeting, which could dent any realistic chances of a truce, after the union’s secretary general, Wilson Sossion, maintained that teachers’ grievances were beyond boardroom negotiations and dialogue.

Mr Sossion directed that no teacher report to work until the grievances were addressed.

In a circular sent to all Knut executive secretaries yesterday on the intended strike, Sossion said he wanted them to bring to the attention of all teachers in their branches that it was their solemn duty to stand in solidarity to defend the interests of the teaching service in Kenya.

“Further, bring to the attention of every member that the strike action commences exactly on the opening date of the new term. No teacher should report for the new school term until the strike is called off formally by the secretary general through a vote of the National Executive Council (NEC), as provided for in our constitution,” Sossion said in the circular.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) nominated MP said the strike was not only legal and constitutional but was also a human right entitlement that all teachers must participate in.

“We shall not resume duties until all issues listed are resolved to the full satisfaction of the Kenyan teachers. We call on all teachers to fully participate in this historic strike in order to claim our justified rights,” the official said, urging the secretaries to effectively manage the strike action and activities in their branches.

Sossion said that pursuant to a resolution of the 61st Annual Delegates Conference (ADC) of Knut on the matter, a proper notice was issued on December 19, 2018, to the Cabinet secretary of Labour and Social Protection, Ukur Yattani, with four key issues affecting the terms and conditions of service for all teachers in public service.

“The issues were deliberated exhaustively by the ADC, whose decisions are supreme, final and binding to all members of Knut. For avoidance of doubt, the issues are teacher promotions, delocalisation/transfers, performance contracting system and teacher professional development modules,” Sossion said.

Their issues

In a letter addressed to Mr Yatani and copied to Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed, Knut stated that the issues were beyond talks.

“The issues in dispute have grown beyond bipartite meetings because of the bad faith by TSC. A resolution at the 61st Annual Delegates Conference (ADC), which is the supreme decision making organ, has voted for the strike action,” said Sossion in the letter dated December 29, 2018.

On Saturday, the conciliatory team met with the union officials in a bid to get a written memorandum on their grievances.

The strike is likely to disrupt the national roll-out of the Competency Based Curriculum. Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, who had earlier stopped the roll-out, has made an about-turn and said the Government was ready for the new system.