KNUT members seek constitution changes

KNUT Secretary General Collins Oyuu. [File, Standard]

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) wants to amend its constitution to check the powers of the secretary-general and review the retirement age for elected officials.

The union constitution presently sets the retirement age at 60 years.

“Any union official shall cease to hold office, upon attaining the age of 60 years, upon resigning by notice in writing to National Executive Council (NEC) or Branch Executive Committee (BEC), dies or is removed by vote at an Annual Delegates Conference (ADC),” reads Article 17 of the Knut constitution.

Some members say strict adherence to the age limit is unfair to holders of elective positions, and has been a major cause of disquiet during elections. Insiders now say the age limit may be raised to 65. The net effect of this is that elected officials whose terms overlap the set age limit will be allowed to complete their tenures.

The Standard has established that the union constitution was revised in December 2015, giving the office of the secretary general additional powers, which insiders claim have been abused.

Secretary-General Collins Oyuu said there exists no such title as chief executive officer in the trade union movement. “This is a nonexistent title, which has accorded the office of the secretary-general more powers. And these powers have been used previously to harass and intimidate union members,” said Oyuu.

The constitution, in Article Six which spells out designations and duties of elected officials, says the secretary general shall also be the CEO of the union.

“He shall function as the chief executive officer of the union and the chief spokesperson of the union,” reads the constitution.

Oyuu said the clause was added during the revision of the constitution in 2015. “We do not recognise such titles in trade union circles. All we know is that the secretary general is the official spokesperson of the union,” said Oyuu. He said power will be devolved as a way of strengthening the union’s organs and structure.

“We shall strengthen union structures and make sure organs such as the NEC get the powers to make major decisions,” said Oyuu.

According to Knut’s constitution, NEC is empowered to act as the supreme authority and to transact the business of the union between the Annual Delegates Conference.

NEC is also mandated to see the decisions and policies of the ADC are fully executed. A meeting of the Advisory Council has been scheduled for December 18 to discuss the proposals.

The Advisory Council consists of members of the NEC, the chairman, executive secretary, treasurer, woman representatives, and persons with disabilities where necessary from each of the branches.

According to the constitution, the Advisory Council shall advise the NEC on important issues in absence of the Annual Delegates Conference.

Mr Hesbon Otieno, the union deputy secretary-general, noted that constitutions are amended to align them with changing times. Otieno said some sections of the constitution are obsolete and need review.

“It is however unfortunate that some people have chosen to focus only on the term limit of elected officials but fail to see many other important sections that need review,’ said Otieno. He said many developments have rendered some sections of the constriction irrelevant and must be aligned. “For instance on branches, the constitution makes reference to districts. But do we still have districts today?” said Otieno. He also pointed out Article 10 of the constitution which still makes reference to branches formed on basis of districts.

The union shall consist of branches organized as far as possible, on a districts basis whose membership shall be approved by the NEC on application,” reads the union constitution. It further states that each branch shall have at least 1,000 members. The revised recognition agreement signed in August reduced Knut branches to 47 up from 110.

But according to the constitution, each branch is expected to have three top officers – chairman, executive secretary, and treasurer – each with an assistant. Together with a woman representative, these officials form the branch steering committee.

Other officials at the branch are representatives of post-primary, early childhood education, persons with disabilities, Kenya Secondary School Heads Association (Kessha), and Kenya Primary School Heads Association (Kepsha).

It also emerged that some sections of Article II of the Knut constitution need to be aligned as many other unions have been formed to represent various categories of teachers.

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