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There’s much more to CBAs than salary - Wilson Sossion

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | March 15th 2021
Wilson Sossion at the KNUT offices in Nairobi. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Collective bargaining is the process in which workers, through their unions, negotiate contracts with their employers to determine their terms of employment. These include pay, benefits, hours of work, leave, job health and safety policies, ways to balance work and family, career progression and job security.

The purpose of collective bargaining is to identify the underlying interests and expectations of the parties. However, this can only be actualised if there is a legally constituted Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Negotiation Panel as provided in the law.

A case in point, the absence of a CBA Negotiation Panel has made it impracticable for the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) to commence a negotiation process for the teachers’ 2021/2023 CBA cycle.

According to the law, it is CBA Negotiation Panel chaired by an independent entity that should steer the collective bargaining, and not the employer.

Contrary to established norms, TSC is attempting to roll out the new CBA without the involvement of Knut leadership as required by the provisions of the law – particularly Articles 54 – 60 of the Labour Relations Act.

The employer is now focusing only on teachers’ wages, ignoring other terms and conditions of service like terminal benefits, hours of work, annual, study and sick leaves, job health and safety policies, career progression, ways to balance work and family, and job security.

Collective agreements are intended to facilitate structured and constructive dialogue between the employer and employees for the purpose of maintaining industrial peace in the teaching service.

Aside from the contentious salary tussle which we strongly believe will successfully be concluded after Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) conducts Job Evaluation in the Teaching Service – the agenda for collective bargaining should now be terms and conditions of service for teachers.

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Collective bargaining should also centre on tutors who are punished because of picketing over labour and professional rights, besides demanding social dialogue mechanisms. Teachers should be free to pursue their labour rights.

Once the CBA Negotiation Panel comprising TSC and Knut officials with the co-option of experts in labour matters is constituted, focus on collective bargaining should also include development of tools that would be used to evaluate teachers’ annual performance per the Code of Regulation for teachers.

In line with Statutory Instruments Act (2013), the tools and the Performance Development Programme should be developed by the commission in partnership with Knut.

This should be done with a view to enhance productivity in the teaching service. More importantly, during collective bargaining, the commission should undertake to comply with Part VI of the Code of Regulations for teachers – criteria and procedure for promotion of teachers from one grade to another.

The promotion should be based on the schemes of service for teachers. Another area of concern that should be given attention in the collective bargaining process is when attempts should be made to resolve grievances in an amicable manner with a view to achieving sustainable industrial peace in the teaching sub-sector.

Parties should agree to strictly exhaust all the alternative dispute resolution mechanisms under the law before resorting to any form of industrial action.

It should be agreed that in the event any provision of the CBA is to be modified after the agreement has been signed and deposited in court, the modification should be by mutual consent of Knut and TSC, made in writing and signed by the authorised representatives of the parties.

We have noticed incidences where the commission unilaterally alters the provision of the CBA without consulting Knut.

In November 2017, for instance, TSC replaced the three schemes of service in the Teaching Service with Career Progression Guidelines without following due process. This amounted to suspending or abolishing the Code of Regulations for Teachers and yet it formed an integral part of the 2017/2021 CBA. There should be no repeat of the same.

To secure the next CBA, parties should agree in principle to subject the agreement to the laws of Kenya, and always respect the court processes and conciliators’ verdict.

Mr Sossion is a nominated MP and Secretary-General of Knut

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