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Delegates during the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) 61st annual delegates conference last year. [File, Standard]
Shocking revelations have emerged of some 90,000 teachers who have pulled out of Knut in an ongoing tiff between the union and the teachers’ employer.

It is understood that the fear of being locked out of the ongoing promotions and the looming deduction to recover monies paid to Kenya National Union of Teachers members following implementation of Collective Bargaining Agreement two years ago is behind the mass exit.

The matter has further been complicated by primary school heads, who lead institutions with majority membership of Knut, disowning the union’s push to fight for them, further isolating the union.

Secondary school heads and the rival Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) have openly sided with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), casting Knut as a lone ranger in championing teachers’ issues.

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Sources within Knut leadership ranks yesterday hinted that the likelihood that TSC may not honour any meetings with the Knut leadership to push for teachers’ benefits has further driven away members.

The tutors’ employer deregistered Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion from the teachers’ roll, arguing that the teachers’ code of conduct and ethics required them to maintain political neutrality at all times and not act in a manner that may compromise or be perceived to compromise their neutrality.

The decision to strike Sossion off the roll has split Knut leadership down the middle, with a crisis meeting called last week to plan for his ouster in the special National Executive Council (NEC) meeting postponed to next Thursday.

“We are in a tight corner as a union because we are unable to even run operations at the branches. But we have one last chance to rescue the union from collapse this week during the NEC meeting,” said a high-ranking Knut official.

Stalled benefits

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The Sunday Standard has, however, reliably learnt that the number of members who have exited Knut could be higher as more teachers continue to exit the union citing stalled benefits of the Third Phase of the Sh54 billion Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

Last month, TSC ran a parallel payroll, locking out all the 190,000 Knut members from the benefits of the CBA signed in 2016.

TSC said it was complying with an order issued by Judge Byram Ongaya that set aside Career Progression Guidelines rolled out in 2017 and reverted to the old Schemes of Service to guide promotions of all teachers under its payroll.

The Commission adopted career progression guidelines in 2017 to enable the implementation of the job evaluation exercise and the CBA that were signed in 2016.

It also emerged that the impending recovery of the monies already paid to Knut members after implementation of the 2016 CBA has further necessitated the mass exit.

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TSC argues that the payroll under Schemes of Service has posed numerous challenges.

“It translates to overpayment of salaries which the commission is bound by law to determine and recover as government liability against the respective teachers,” TSC said in an August 8 statement. 

So far, all the 318,000 teachers have been benefiting from the 2017-2021 CBA signed between TSC, Knut and Kuppet.

TSC has indicated that it is currently analysing the extent of the resultant overpayment.

“It is important to note that in the normal course of its business, the commission recovers erroneous payments as and when the same are detected such as allowances paid for a teacher who was transferred after the payroll is run,” said Nancy Macharia, TSC Chief Executive Officer.

Mrs Macharia said based on the recent court ruling, the commission is unable to fully pay the teachers their salary increment that was due at the end of July.

Looming demotions

In his ruling, Justice Ongaya set aside the contested progression guidelines introduced by TSC to guide promotions, handing Knut a major win.

Sources at the commission also hinted to Sunday Standard that Knut members have also missed out on the CBA benefits in the August salaries and union dues not deducted.

Knut is already feeling the heat on the failed remittance of union dues of about Sh280 million, throwing branches into paralysis. Sossion admitted that the union is suffering.

Also shaking the union membership is the looming demotion of Knut affiliates as TSC insists it is complying with a court order that it argues clawed back major gains.

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Teachers Service Commission Knut Kuppet
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