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Newly-signed Knut recognition agreement is illegal

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | August 29th 2021

Former KNUT secretary-general Wilson Sossion. [File, Standard]

Since the 36-day teachers’ national strike in 2015, the State kicked off a systematic scheme to permanently silence Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut). The recognition agreement has been the main target in immobilising the union. 

However, to sustain industrial peace, we must have a secure recognition agreement which provides a framework for industrial relations. A recognition agreement sets out the rules and procedures to be used by the union and the employer during consultations, collective bargaining and presentation. It is in the interest of both parties to have a well cut-out agreement anchored in law.

The recognition agreement signed between Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Knut on August 11, 2021, is incompatible and defeats the purpose and basic principles of the agreement. The content of the new agreement dilutes the previous one which dates back to 1968, and which over the decades.

According to the agreement, Knut members will strictly be primary school teachers. But according to the Knut constitution, which can only be amended by the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC), the union draws its membership from the entire teaching service.

In the new agreement, negotiations concerning remuneration shall be subject to mandatory and binding advisory of Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC). This violates Article 41 of the Constitution and SRC Act (2012). The law states that negotiations should be between the union and the employer. SRC only comes in to offer advice on remuneration and benefits since teachers fall under public officers – note, teachers are not State officers.

In what appears to be going against Article 41 of the Constitution and the Labour Relations Act (2007), the agreement directs that teachers will not use their positions in the union to advance Knut’s interests and aspirations. This amounts to undue limitation of duties, responsibilities and powers of elected leaders.

The reduction of union branches from 110 to 47 as directed in the agreement is a gross violation of Knut constitution. Branches can only be dissolved by branch members in line with Knut constitution. It is pure intimidation of union leaders who are on leave of absence without pay to remain bound by the TSC’s Code of Regulations for Teachers as dictated in the agreement.

The agreement further states that a head teacher or a teacher acting in that position shall not be a member of the union. This contravenes Article 190 of the Code of Regulations for Teachers which states: “A teacher serving in an administrative capacity may be a member of a trade union provided that such membership shall not interfere or in any way conflict with the performance of the teacher’s assigned duties.”

According to the agreement, there will be no strike until a resolution of the dispute by parties or the CS. This too, amounts to limitation of labour rights of teachers. Recognition agreement and constitution are sacred statutory instruments of the union. None can be changed without the ADC’s approval.

 -Mr Sossion is a member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour

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