My five-year stint in Parliament has been fruitful but challenging

Nominated MP Wilson Sossion addressing the media at Parliament. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The curtains are coming down on the 12th Parliament where I have served as MP following nomination by Orange Democratic Movement to represent workers. My engagement with the parliamentary leadership and all those who sought my services was worthwhile and productive, though I should confess it was not a walk in the park. I am grateful to the ODM leadership for recognising Kenyan workers through me.

l faced considerable challenges from all sides, including some top unionists who spiritedly challenged my nomination by ODM. But since my discharge of duties and responsibilities was based on professionalism, rule of law, honesty and meaningful relationships with parliamentary and union leaderships, l surmounted the challenges.

In spite of myriad challenges, we managed to block the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill of 2018 that would have amended the Employment Act of 2007, to switch off the check-off system and the right of workers to go on strike under Article 41(2)(d) of the Constitution.

In the same vein, Parliament interrogated the famous July 12, 2019 judgment that made a landmark pronouncement on teachers’ constitutional right to fair labour practices, and why TSC cannot replace the three Schemes of Service for Teachers with Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) or Teacher Professional Development (TPD) without invoking Statutory Instruments Act of 2013.

Section 8(1) of the Act provides that before a regulation making authority, in the instant case, TSC makes a statutory instrument, the Commission shall make consultations with persons who are likely to be affected by the proposed instrument. In this case, TSC did not consult teachers’ unions before introducing CPG and TPD.

Parliament prevailed upon TSC to reverse the rollout and implementation of TPD programmes until extensive public participation was conducted as required under Article 232(1)(d) of the Constitution. This is contained in a petition already approved by the House.

Parliament is opposed to teachers being subjected to paying for TPD modules, and all other government initiated programmes. The petition by teachers on TPD was positively prosecuted with clear recommendation to suspend the haphazardly implemented programme, and subjecting it afresh to public participation and allowing more universities to participate in training of teachers.

Parliament further recommended that the cost of mounting TPD and other courses be the responsibility of TSC. Parliament compelled TSC to recognise and acknowledge all relevant academic qualifications attained by in-service teachers in accordance with UNESCO/ILO recommendations of 1966 that codifies intellectual rights of teachers who undertake and conclude relevant in-service courses. This came about following a petition by teachers.

Parliament has therefore urged the commission to submit budgetary requirements for promotion of all eligible teachers in the 2023/2024 Financial Year for consideration by the National Assembly, and more so, TSC should open negotiations with teachers unions on the Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) and uphold the rights of teachers who have acquired relevant qualifications at the time of their service.

The Commission is also required to promote all suitably qualified teachers in cadres that were left out in the vertical progression during the transition to the CPG, these include P1 teachers who had acquired Bachelor of Education degrees, teachers previously in Job Group L who had no administrative responsibilities and any diploma teacher who joined the service at Job Group J and had obtained Bachelor of Education degree by the commencement of the 2017/2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Persistent calls for review of implementation of Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) paid off when Parliament compelled the Ministry of Education to constitute a task force on enhancing access, relevance, transition, equity and quality for effective curriculum reforms implementation. It was generally agreed by Parliament that CBC remains the biggest challenge to the development of education in Kenya.

Workers in the tea sector petitioned Parliament to recommend that the Ministry of Agriculture in liaison with the ministries of Labour and that of Health compel the multinational tea companies to stop mechanical tea harvesting since the tea industry was experiencing massive layoffs due to the use of plucking machines. The petition has since been approved.

Parliament has recommended restructuring of export of skilled and unskilled human resource. The domestic workers export needs to be restructured to stop modern day slavery where domestic workers are abused in the Middle East. The government must take over training and deployment of domestic workers and send more supervisors to the Middle East to ensure decent management of  this cadre of workers.

Parliament handled numerous labour issues on the floor, and beyond. For instance, we handled a number of petitions of Safaricom employees, Kenya Ports Authority workers, Ministry of Health staff and other cadres in public and private sectors. It is regrettable that some petitions are still pending in the House, but all is not lost. We hope the next Parliament will be able to pick up from where we left.

There is need for the leading political parties to once again nominate trade union leaders to play the crucial role of legislation, oversight and representation of Kenyan workers.