Daggers drawn as broke Knut issues deadline to tutors’ boss

Uncertainty over polls looms even as members countrywide launch campaigns for top posts at branch level.

Saturday January 9 2016

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) chairman Mudzo Nzili (seated left) and secretary general Wilson Sossion (seated right) at the KNUT headquarters in Nairobi on December 27, 2014 when they announced a nationwide strike from January 5, 2015. Teachers on Friday accused their employer of plotting to cripple their union activities by failing to collect and remit their monthly contributions. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE |

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) chairman Mudzo Nzili (seated left) and secretary general Wilson Sossion (seated right) at the KNUT headquarters in Nairobi on December 27, 2014 when they announced a nationwide strike from January 5, 2015. Teachers on Friday accused their employer of plotting to cripple their union activities by failing to collect and remit their monthly contributions. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By OUMA WANZALA
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Teachers on Friday accused their employer of plotting to cripple their union activities by failing to collect and remit their monthly contributions.

They said their normal operations were almost grinding to a halt due to lack of funds since the Teachers Service Commission had refused to deduct dues on their behalf since October.

“We are at a loss as to how we will finance branch and national elections between March and June as directed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security Services because we don’t have funds,” said Kenya National Union of Teachers Secretary General Wilson Sossion on Friday.

He said the union could not pay its 400 employees countrywide, pay rent in its 110 branches and service loans advanced to various branches for development projects and purchase of vehicles.

He said they were planning to turn to financial institutions for loans to finance their activities and remain afloat.

Last year, only 68 branches out of 110 conducted annual general meetings.

KNUT ULTIMATUM

Mr Sossion on Wednesday issued a seven-day notice to TSC to immediately remit membership contributions for October, November and December.

“We are making a final reminder that you immediately remit the withheld dues and restore and release our register of members to enable us to conduct credible elections,” said Mr Sossion in a January 6 letter to TSC Chief Executive Officer Nancy Macharia.

(READ: How teachers were starved to surrender)

“In the event of your failure to comply as demanded, we shall take appropriate action against you, including declaration of a labour dispute to protect our union rights.”

Contacted, TSC Head of Communication Kihumba Kamotho said the Commission does not owe Knut or Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) any dues since it did not deduct the money from teachers in the said months.

“We owe the unions nothing since we did not deduct any money and the reasons are in public domain,” he said.

The commission is trying to validate the two unions’ membership before it can continue deducting the fees. The exercise is expected to be concluded by the end of next month.

BRANCH, NATIONAL ELECTIONS

Mr Sossion said Knut required about Sh55 million to conduct branch elections from February 3 to 19, followed by national elections whose cost he did not reveal.

Financial institutions that had given several branch offices loans to start business have issued default notices since the debts are not being serviced, he said.

“We need to buy materials for use during the elections. We have also instructed branch secretaries to organise venues. The union, therefore, needs funds for all these activities,” he said.

Knut Deputy Secretary-General Hesbond Otieno on Friday said campaigns in the branches had already begun.

“We want teachers to prepare for the elections. They should turn out in large numbers to choose leaders who will represent them properly,” he said.

Mr Otieno said the elections would be free and fair.

Knut and Kuppet collect more than Sh2 billion annually as membership fee.

Knut gets about Sh1.6 billion every year. About Sh135 million is remitted every month from its 206,000 members, mostly in primary schools.

Kuppet, on the other hand, has about 34,000 members drawn mainly from secondary schools. Tutors in teacher training colleges and technical training institutions are also members of Kuppet.

The TSC remits about Sh35 million per month and Sh425 million annually to the union.

Data from the TSC shows that 48,060 teachers do not belong to any union, most of whom are principals.