The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) now wants to be enjoined in a case between the teachers’ employer and rival Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
The matter that touches on teachers’ promotions, transfers and training, and whether headteachers can become unions officials, is now threatening a Sh13 billion new pay package that was expected to commence at the end of this month.
Kuppet chairman Omboko Milemba said the union has instructed its lawyers to be part of the case to protect the interests of its 83,000 members.
“Our overriding mission in this case will be to remove any loopholes for the employer to negatively vary the current earnings of our members and ensure that working conditions for teachers get better, not worse, in any circumstance,” said Mr Milemba.
Last week, the Employment and Labour Court ruled in favour of Knut, allowing head teachers and school administrators to contest for union positions.
On transfers, the court ruled that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) can only transfer teachers who are union officials to areas they were elected to represent. It also quashed the current promotion guidelines that are pegged on performance appraisals.
Conflict of interest
But TSC moved back to court to challenge the ruling, with Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia arguing that allowing head teachers to contest for union positions would create a conflict of interest.
In her affidavit seeking a stay of last week’s orders, Ms Macharia said the ruling would make it impossible to implement the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that kicks off at the end of this month.
She said that by quashing the current career progression guidelines, all teachers who had been promoted will have to return to their previous job grades. Macharia added that there would be no new promotions until January next year because the orders referred the parties involved back to the negotiating table.
“This will lead to demotion of institutional administrators who have been promoted based on the career progression guidelines since the implementation of the CBA. It also completely cripples the exercise of the applicant function to promote teachers generally in accordance with the CBA. It is not in the best interest of teachers,” said Macharia.
But Knut has opposed TSC’s application, arguing that suspending the court orders would drive them back to the stalemate they were in before the case was filed.
Through lawyers Hillary Sigei and John Mbaluto, Knut urged the judge not to issue fresh orders.
Kuppet, which has waded into the issue, argues that it is seeking to protect the gains made following an agreement with the Government three years ago.
“The court’s orders provided a window for the employer to roll back multiple gains teachers had secured under the 2016 CBA,” reads a statement from Kuppet.
Mr Milemba warned that tampering with the current CBA was likely to affect impending talks on the 2021-2025 agreement, which the union has already submitted to the teachers’ employer.