The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has listed a raft of demands it says must be met ahead of schools opening in January 2021.
This as Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion roped in the Office of the President and four Cabinet secretaries in the ensuing conflict between the teachers’ employer and the union.
The National Intelligence Service and the umbrella union Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) have also been sucked into the long-running trade dispute between Knut and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
In a letter dated November 13 to TSC CEO Nancy Macharia, Sossion pitched a case for industrial action, making reference to a series of letters between the union and TSC.
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He also listed a number of correspondences between the union and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and tagged in several top government offices for action.
In his communication to the higher offices, Sossion attached copies of correspondence that has been sent to Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, Cabinet Secretaries George Magoha (Education), Fred Matiang'i (Coordination of National Government), Simon Chelugui (Labour) and Ukur Yatani (Finance).
After listing various points of disagreements with TSC, Sossion issued ultimatums for unspecified action.
“You have strictly three weeks to remedy all these failure of which the union shall take stern action against you as provided in Article 41 of the Constitution without any further reference to you,” said Sossion. The thrust of the complaint is implementation of collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiations between Knut and TSC.
“We wish to state that you elected to mismanage the CBA that is currently under implementation and commenced the next CBA in an unprocedural manner,” said Sossion.
In a tough notice to TSC yesterday, Sossion said all teachers under its register must be paid salary arrears for the duration they were denied pay increase. Sossion also called for immediate promotions of all Knut members who were due for upgrades but were denied opportunities for belonging to the union.
“If they do not pay teachers their salaries and also fail to promote all the teachers who qualified and were denied the chance then we shall have no business opening schools,” he said.
The union leader accused the teachers’ employer for unilaterally suspending the 2017-2021 CBA for its members and blocking them from benefits.
“You have persistently continued to exclude members of Knut from benefiting in the same CBA and locked out all our members from any form of promotional rights in addition to messing up our membership register,” said Sossion.
He demanded that TSC reinstates the Knut register as it was in June last year before schools opening date.
Sossion said between June last year and now, the union lost more than Sh1.2 billion in monthly dues after its membership shrunk from 187,471 to less than 50,000 teachers.
TSC has, however, dismissed this narrative, saying that teachers have quit Knut on their own.
“There has been a narrative that TSC removed members from Knut to benefit a rival union and that is not true. If teachers left any union, they did so on their own based on a court ruling that worked against them,” said TSC head of corporate affairs Beatrice Wababu in an earlier interview. Sossion said the court ordered TSC not to tamper with its membership register and to update the Teacher Performance Appraisal and Development with Knut.
“You have continued to execute this disregarding court direction,” Sossion said.
Sossion also wants the TSC to honour all the court orders, including the suspension on implementation of the career progression guidelines.
“The court ordered us to meet and deal with these issues with finality but you have blatantly refused any meetings with us and therefore managing teachers out of the code of regulations hence contradicting the provisions of CBA and denying teachers their rights to promotions and other benefits,” said Sossion.
He said illegal implementation of the CPGs has irregularly locked out Knut members from the Sh54 billion CBA.
In her earlier responses, Macharia said the commission could not disobey the court ruling.
“When the CBA was signed, it introduced a new grading system for teachers known as Career Progression Guidelines, which replaced the Scheme of Service. But Knut challenged the implementation of the CPG in court,” said Macharia.
The secretary general said no teacher will report to class on January 4 when schools are scheduled to open if all demands are not met.
“We also demand that TSC starts fresh talks on the next 2021-2023 CBA, and job evaluations done for teaching staff,” he said.