18,000 teachers dump Knut for rival in fallout over pay rise row

Wednesday March 18 2020
By OUMA WANZALA
By DAVID MUCHUNGUH

More than 18,000 school principals and deputies have quit the giant Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) in the last three weeks in a fallout over a pay increment meant to have taken effect in July.

The senior teachers, who have joined the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), are among those earmarked for a Sh13 billion pay rise in the third phase of the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

UNION DUES

This happened as efforts to resolve a stand-off between Knut and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) went a notch higher Tuesday.

ODM leader Raila Odinga and the Ministry of Labour stepped up efforts to reconcile the two parties, which have returned to the Labour Court for the hearing of a dispute on unpaid union dues amounting to Sh138 million.

The school administrators decamped to Kuppet because it was not part of a court dispute that resulted in the stoppage of the implementation of the CBA for Knut members.

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Knut officials from Nyanza sought the Mr Odinga’s intervention to help address the frosty relations with the TSC. The six branch executive secretaries, four national executive council (NEC) members and one chairman met Mr Odinga at his Capitol Hill Square offices.

Rachuonyo executive secretary Eliud Ombori led the team.

Mr Odinga’s spokesman Dennis Onyango said in a statement that the meeting took place at the Knut officials’ request. He said the officials sought Mr Odinga’s advice and intervention to thrash out the differences between Knut and TSC, which has withheld Knut’s dues for two months.

NEGOTIATIONS

The union officials also wanted Mr Odinga to intervene in the interdiction of 280 teachers, including Knut officials, earlier this year, for missing a day’s training on the Competency Based Curriculum.

Mr Odinga promised to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table, but asked Knut to embrace negotiations before resorting to strikes.

“I appeal to the union to end internal wrangles and focus on serving members,” he said.

Meanwhile, Knut officials were yesterday divided on whether or not a meeting of the union’s National Executive Council slated for Thursday should proceed or not.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion said the meeting had been called off to allow for talks in order to solve the standoff. However, some officials vowed to go ahead with the meeting, with suspension of Mr Sossion being the only item on the agenda.

“We are following the constitution of the union. We requisitioned a meeting and gave adequate notice. We are in conformity to Article 9 (3),” NEC member Michael Muna said.

BENEFICIARIES

He added that the constitution allows them to convene and make resolutions that are binding, in case the secretary-general fails to honour their requisition.

However, some officials who are on Mr Sossion’s side disputed the legality of the meeting and called for dialogue.

“They’ve a right to go on, but that won’t be a meeting. They don’t understand the Knut constitution. The secretary-general has the responsibility of calling off the meeting if he realises there is an issue,” NEC member Dan Oloo said.

On Tuesday, Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori said the union had received 18,000 new members from Knut. He said those who had joined are headteachers, their deputies, principals and their deputies.

During the signing of the CBA, administrators were the major beneficiaries of the Sh54 billion four-year salary deal.

The Ministry of Labour in an August 26 letter and addressed to TSC Chief Executive officer Nancy Macharia said it was aware of the stand-off.

WRANGLES

“As the government’s main institution charged with the responsibility of maintaining industrial harmony in the country, the Ministry of Labour has carefully considered the issues raised in the Knut letter referred above and is of the opinion that the matter constitutes a receivable dispute in accordance with the provision of section 66 and 71(2) of the Labour Relations Act,” said the letter by Principal Secretary Peter Tum.

He went on: “In an effort to conciliate between parties, it would be appreciated if you could urgently favour this office with your brief on the matter preferably by Tuesday August 27.

However, Mrs Macharia in a letter to the PS dated August 26, said the matter was in court as Knut was only enjoying temporary orders to have the dues released.

“Accordingly, we regret to inform you that the matter being sub-judice, the commission is restrained from addressing the same outside court at the moment,” Mrs Macharia said.

Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli also asked union officials to work closely and avoid unnecessary wrangles.

 “COTU (K) reiterates that the differences exhibited within the leadership of Knut are not in the interest of the teachers they serve and we caution the entire leadership of Knut against falling prey to divisive politics from external forces out to wreck the union,” Mr Atwoli said in a statement.