31 July 2013

Kenya: Fresh Teachers' Strike Set for Tuesday

Photo: The Star
Union officials issue fresh strike notice over teachers' July pay.

Nairobi — The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has now issued a fresh seven-day strike notice over tutors' July salaries, which are being withheld by the government.

The union's Secretary General Mudzo Nzili said that teachers will boycott classes again if their employer continues with the punitive action.

Nzili told a press conference on Wednesday that teachers' salaries amounting to Sh13 billion were being held by the Teachers Service Commission and that this violated the return-to-work formula agreed upon.

"Owing to the commission's flagrant disregard of the return-to-work formula and outright provocative trade practice by the employer, KNUT hereby declares a trade dispute and subsequently issues the commission with a seven-day notice of the intended industrial action," he said.

He declared that should no action be taken during the seven-day period, teachers will have no option but to down their tools.

"Please take note that the notice commences today and if at the expiry of the seven-day notice no solution shall have been found to this dispute, all members of the union shall commence industrial action as shall have been directed by the National Executive Council without further reference to the commission," he said.

KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion on the other hand accused the TSC of playing with the psychology of teachers by recovering money to help it pay the outstanding balance in allowances owed to them thus minimising any losses made.

Sossion also revealed that he has information that the government is planning to spend the withheld funds to hire 11,000 additional teachers.

"We are all seeing everything. If they want to take Sh13 billion and use that money to pay us Sh5.7 billion, how much is that profit. Is this a government bent at making profit or is it taking care of the interests of its citizens?" he posed.

Sossion further stated that the disregard shown to the return-to-work formula signed with the government when the strike was called off is a show of bad faith by the TSC.

He stated that this time round, should they go on strike, the teachers will remain out of class until they are paid in full.

"A strike for even one hour is a strike so whatever we plan to do, those are our own secret cards, we will shuffle them. Come and witness this on Monday. We have invited the National Advisory Council and we have declared a dispute. That is the preliminary step. On Monday, we shall be advised on the next step to take," he said.

He pointed out that such action is a constitutional right and is protected under law.

"The Industrial Relations Act gives us options to proceed with a seven-day notice or seek redress through the courts. For now, we will go through the one that we know best and we can deal with it with ease. It is also the one that the government is asking for," he said.

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi has insisted that teachers who boycotted classes will not be paid.

According to the union however, the return-to-work formula signed on August 18 with TSC stipulated that there would be no victimization of any teacher on account of the concluded strike.

The SG said that the withholding of salaries was an act of victimization which the teachers will not take lying down.

He stated that the commission's actions amounted to an invitation to teachers to also renege on their part of the bargain.

He also described it as a breach of court orders, the Employment Act and the Constitution.

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