Kenya: KNUT Scrambles to Put House in Order Amid Mass Exodus

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has now called for a crisis meeting with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to discuss issues affecting teachers amid a mass exodus from the union by thousands of headteachers.

In a letter to TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia dated July 15, Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion called for an urgent meeting with the commission to discuss the implementation of recent court orders regarding promotions and redeployment of union officials, among other issues.

"Following the July 12 court ruling, which cleared all outstanding issues between us and you, we hereby write to ask you to urgently convene a meeting to discuss as regards teacher promotions, redeployment of union officials who had been transferred to schools outside their branches, performance appraisal tools and teacher professional development programme among other issues as directed by the Employment and Labour Relations Court," said Mr Sossion.

SERVICE SCHEME

Knut is also calling on the TSC to urgently promote all deserving teachers particularly those with new qualifications without any further delay.

Further, Mr Sossion indicated to the commission that the union is ready to discuss the three schemes of service as directed by the court.

Mr Sossion also wants the employer to ensure that the third phase of the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is fully implemented.

Knut's push comes amid growing opposition from the Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (Kessha) and the Kenya Primary Schools Headteachers Association (Kepsha), which have sided with the TSC. The TSC has since moved to court to seek a stay of the judgement issued by the Labour Relations Court arguing that it will negatively affect teachers.

'NEUTRAL POSITIONS'

On Saturday, Kessha chairman Kahi Indimuli supported the move by TSC, warning that the implementation of the judgement would water down the gains made in the current CBA.

He warned that headteachers' positions will be affected if the ruling is effected

"The court ruling, if implemented, will affect schools heads negatively as our positions will be affected. It will also interfere with the current system where schools heads were promoted to be administrators," he said.

He asked principals not to seek elective positions in the union as this will affect their current status as administrators.

"To maintain neutral positions, we are asking principals not to seek or accept union positions as that may compromise decisions where one may be influenced by union interests," he said. Mr Indimuli said the schools heads can however choose to just remain ordinary union members.

KEPSHA THREAT

On Friday, Kepsha also opposed the court judgement and threw its weight behind their employer.

Kepsha national chairman Nicholas Gathemia threatened to pull out of Knut, saying the association was not a party to the court proceedings and that the ruling would negatively impact them.

"We are worried and concerned about our fate following the judgement, which in our opinion and interpretation shall affect our well-being by blocking the career progression of school administrators," he said.

KUPPET'S POSITION

The Kenya Post Primary Education teachers union (Kuppet) has also indicated that it will seek to be enjoined in the court case.

Kuppet Acting Secretary-General Moses Nthurima said the union has instructed its lawyers to join the suit in order to protect the interests of its members.

Kuppet argues that the judgement ignored the fact that there are other parties to the CBA negotiations with TSC.

"The union's main goal in the suit is to protect the gains under the CBA, signed in 2016, which had been put at risk by the judgement. The court's orders provided a window for the employer to roll back multiple gains teachers had secured under the 2016 CBA," he said.

TRAINING MODULES

In the judgment, Justice Byram Ongaya ruled that the Teachers Training Development Programme (TPD) module should not be implemented.

Justice Ongaya found that the existing module falls short of professional development programmes as required by the TSC Act and other regulations.

The judge therefore directed TSC to hold a meeting to finalise performance measurement tools by December 1 so that they can be rolled out in January 2020.

On teacher transfers, the court ruled that TSC should undertake it in accordance with the code of regulations for teachers.

OTHER ISSUES

The court also ruled that school heads and principals as institutional administrators are unionisable employees hence can be elected as trade union officials in elections.

Justice Ongaya said that school heads and principals, are also liable to be transferred, but in their specific geographical areas, and that Knut is entitled to participate in such matters.

On promotion of teachers, the court declared that this is a responsibility of TSC but ordered that both the commission and the union to consider reviewing the scheme of service.

On performance appraisal tools, he ruled that Knut participated in the development of the performance management tools and that the only problem was the validation of the same hence compelled.

The ruling, according to TSC, will affect more than 160,000 teachers holding administrative positions. They include, principals, Chief Principals, headteachers, their deputies and senior teachers.

The commission says that, if the judgement is implemented, it will be forced to recall the enhanced July salaries that had been programmed to be paid as phase two of the CBA.

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