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Knut accuses TSC of defiance by keeping an appeal on teachers strike

By Kamau Muthoni | October 31st 2020
TSC CEO Nancy Macharia. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) now accuses the teachers’ employer of defying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to withdraw all disputes between them.

In its application before the Court of Appeal, Knut accuses the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) of reneging on the agreement to withdraw all disputes in court as a condition to negotiate and conclude the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The TSC moved to the Appeals court after Labour Court judge Nelson Abuodha dismissed its case in 2015 that had sought to compel teachers to go back to class.

According to the union, its members downed their tools after TSC failed to honour a 50-60 per cent pay increase as had been ordered by the Labour Court.

The union says it withdrew a Supreme Court appeal against the TSC and the Attorney General on the pay increment in the belief that the commission would reciprocate.

“Despite the foregoing, and despite the fact that the parties have since negotiated and concluded a CBA, it is now clear the first respondent (TSC) has reneged on the agreement to withdraw this appeal relating to the dispute and has insisted on proceeding with it, in utmost bad faith and in complete defiance of the President,” Knut lawyer John Mbaluto argued.

Mbaluto said the union will reinstate its Supreme Court case to strike a balance.

“It is unconscionable and immoral for the first respondent to back-track on the agreement to withdraw cases,” he said, adding the appeal should be struck out and TSC condemned to pay the costs.

However, the teachers’ employer asserts that it has a right to pursue the case to the end.

Good industrial relations

In reply to Knut’s protest, TSC denied it had gone against the deal struck before the President. It said the appeal was to clear out the clouds regarding the legality of the 2015 teachers’ strike.

TSC seeks to have the Court of Appeal pronounce itself on whether employees can go on strike without giving a notice as implied in the ruling by Justice Abuodha,” it said.

“The appeal is, in fact, an attempt to bring predictability and clarity and create stability in the Labour sector. It is not a contest with the union. It is brought out of a desire to advance good industrial relations between the employer and union.”

The Employment and Labour Relations Court declared the teachers’ strike was legal but the commission moved to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling.

Teachers had in 2015 downed their tools for eight weeks and spent close to four months in court, demanding a 50-60 per cent salary increase.

The TSC challenged the verdict, saying it would require an additional Sh118 billion to implement, which would push the country’s wage bill from 52 per cent to 61 per cent of all revenue collected.

The State, through the AG, argued it would be forced to either raise value-added tax (VAT) from 16 to 22 per cent and increase borrowing, or suspend critical development programmes and essential services.

Justice Abuodha had ruled that a P1 teacher ought to have a 15 per cent increase and the highest-paid teacher was to get a 12.5 per cent raise.

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