Amendment of recognition agreements bodes ill for trade unions

The employer has no business dictating terms and conditions of union leaders. [Courtesy]

The recent amendment of teacher unions’ Recognition Agreements (RAs), feigned Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) and the employer compelling union leaderships to amend constitutions pose a threat to the trade union movement and raises critical policy and legal questions.

Trade unions by law are societal entities and it is entirely upon the membership to regulate and determine their objectives, aspirations and, more importantly, decide how they should be governed through union constitution.

If the employer mutilates RAs, unions sign flawed CBAs and have weakened constitutions, the employer would capitalise on these to exploit, sway and manipulate union officials.

Instructively, the employer has no business dictating terms and conditions of union leaders or determining the number of branches a union should have and from which segment of staff the union should draw its membership.

Though the foundation and strength of trade unions lie squarely in strong, secure and skillfully woven RAs, it is ridiculous and indeed, a cowardly act for union leaderships to amend constitutions through RAs. This amounts to labour racketeering and by extension State capture of unions.

A case in point, letters of invitation to the just-concluded Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Special Annual Delegates Conference (ADC) did not indicate the amendment of the constitution as an agenda for the delegates to deliberate at the branch Annual General Meetings (AGMs) with a view of reaching a popular stand, supported by a majority of teachers – delegates were ambushed with a strange agenda at the ADC that Knut constitution is ripe for change.

Amendment of the constitution or any other major union policy document like RA or CBA must be subjected to Article 10 (2) (a) (b) and (c) of the Constitution (2010) which states in part, “The national values and principles of governance include, (a) Patriotism, national unity, sharing and devolution of power, the rule of law, democracy and participation of the people; (b) Human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of the marginalised; (c) Good governance, integrity, transparency and accountability.”

Instead of Knut leadership fighting oppressive teacher policies, union leaders are collaborating with the employer to implement repressive schemes that are retrogressive to members. It is the duty and responsibility of union leaders to create an equilibrium between leaders’ opinion and the employer. 

In sum, the retirement age of teachers and union officials must remain at 60 years as stated in Section 161 of the Code of Regulations for Teachers. Further, Section 70 of the Public Service Commission Regulations prescribes the mandatory retirement age in the Public Service as 60 or 65 years for persons with disability. Attempt by Knut officials to stretch the retirement age beyond 60 years is therefore illegal and unreasonable.

The government, through weakened RAs, has successfully managed to demarcate teachers, leaving primary school tutors in Knut and post-primary educators forcefully enlisted in Kuppet which is contrary to Article 41 of the Constitution.

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

The Standard
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