The government is racing against time to have teachers and their employer strike a deal ahead of the filing of a conciliation report in the Employment and Labour Relations Court Wednesday.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) have been engaged in talks for a month following a court order that they reconcile their positions. The order averted a teachers’ strike that would have started at the beginning of the year.
However, the hardline positions by the commission and the union that prompted the court’s intervention last year have proven difficult to bridge for a committee appointed by Labour CS Ukur Yatani.
The Nation has learnt that the committee, led by labour relations officer Charles Maranga, has been meeting both parties without success so far, with the sticking points that led to the strike notice still unresolved.
Members of the team declined to discuss the contents of the report, saying it will be made public Wednesday in the Labour Relations Court.
Details of the memorandum of responses submitted to the committee by the TSC, however, indicate that it is not about to give in to Knut’s demands. The union, in turn, insists it will not relent in its push.
The bone of contention is promotion of teachers, their transfers, performance appraisals and contracting, and professional development.
The TSC argues that the demand by Knut that teachers be promoted after they attain higher professional qualifications is contrary to their code of regulations. Chief executive officer Nancy Macharia, in her submission, says promotions are guided by several factors, including merit and ability as reflected in an individual’s work, performance and results.
Seniority and experience, existence of a vacancy, academic and professional qualifications, and any other criteria the commission may consider relevant are also used to award promotions, the commission points out.
Ms Macharia also argues that promoting teachers based on higher qualifications alone would be contrary to the collective bargaining agreement signed by the parties.
The TSC says the 2017-2021 CBA has led to promotion of teachers to grades higher than what they would have attained using the normal grading structure. Hence, the commission is proposing, promotions should be based on the code of regulations.
However, Knut, in its memorandum, says it is not seeking promotion of teachers based on higher qualifications only, but also on the basis of law, regulations and practice.
“The code of regulations for teachers has neither been amended nor repealed, and cannot be repealed or amended by a policy document. Its recognition and adoption of scheme of service is anchored and protected in law,” says Knut in a memorandum signed by secretary-general Wilson Sossion.
Knut argues that regulation 74 provides that the commission shall promote teachers in accordance with the scheme of service, which provides common-cadre promotion and competitive promotion.
“The union is not aware of any policy decision to fast-track promotion of teachers with higher academic qualifications at all,” reads the Knut memorandum.
Knut adds that career progression guidelines introduced by TSC without consultations in essence replace academic qualifications by teachers, hence denying them promotion.
However, TSC says that, with the signing of the CBA, which came into operation on July 1, 2017, the three schemes of service became obsolete.
It now wants parties to adopt career progression guidelines to safeguard all gains enjoyed by teachers under the CBA. Alternatively, the commission proposes that the promotion of teachers be reverted to the provisions of the schemes of service, which could mean salary conversion tables will revert to old scales and the appointment of administrators abolished.
On transfers, TSC says it has the constitutional mandate to move teachers, who entered into individual contracts to serve anywhere in the country with it.
“In exercise of its functions, the commission is currently reviewing the appeals and analysing each in its merit. Consequently, some transfers have been reversed and the affected teachers informed accordingly,” says TSC.
The commission now wants transfers of head teachers who are not officials of Knut to continue in accordance with the provisions of the code of regulations, but argues that retention of Knut officials who are administrators is contrary to the law.
Therefore, it argues, all head teachers who are Knut officials should exit the teaching service, or, if they wish to continue teaching, resign from their posts in the union.
However, Knut says that, “while a teacher is employed to teach, the commitment to duty does not take away other rights, including participation and offering oneself for an elective position”.
Mr Sossion says TSC has misled the committee that it is illegal and unlawful to have union officials as administrators.