Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion has dismissed a meeting by some top union officials, who have threatened to topple him within seven days.
“There was no meeting. Union meetings are convened by the secretary-general. The only meeting I know of is the National Executive Council’s (NEC) slated for August 29,” Mr Sossion told the Nation on phone.
He was reacting to reports that branch officials and some NEC members had meeting at Knut House in Nairobi and resolved to start the process of replacing the secretary-general, who they accuse of putting members on a collision course with the Teachers Service Commission, and making them suffer.
“This thing is being blown out of proportion. I was away and have just got back to the office. I have been told that there were visitors here. There was no meeting, those were just visitors and there is nothing wrong with having people visit,” Mr Sossion said. He added that he remains the spokesperson of the union.
However, officials who attended the meeting said they came up with a memorandum with one of the resolutions being the expulsion of Mr Sossion. The branch executive secretaries were also advised not to take instructions from the secretary-general until the dispute is resolved. “We invited ourselves to the meeting. We don’t need to be invited to our house,” said one secretary.
The meeting was apparently organised through a social media group for the union officials. The official added that during next Thursday’s NEC meeting that Mr Sossion has called, they will “escort NEC members to deliver our message for they will not attend in their individual capacities but as our representatives.”
Those opposed to Mr Sossion’s leadership blame him for problems the union members have with their employer.
Present at the meeting were 20 out of 31 NEC officials, 27 branch secretaries, with 14 sending apologies. Knut has 110 branches. Among the steering committee members, only Mr Sossion, the National Chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi and Treasurer Don Matiang’i did not attend the meeting.
“The union is not in talking terms with the State and the TSC because they have a problem with an individual who has issues with everyone, including the education committee in Parliament,” said Mr Joe Mungai, the Thika branch secretary.
He accused Mr Sossion of doing nothing to have 280 teachers, who were interdicted for disrupting training on the competency-based curriculum organised by the TSC, reinstated. TSC is yet to invite Knut to the negotiating table for the 2021 collective bargaining agreement.
Meanwhile, the Central Organisation of Trade Unions Kenya (Cotu) has waded into the matter, urging the officials to give dialogue a chance.
Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli said he strongly opposes any coup among affiliates because they do not provide solutions to internal trade unions’ problems.
“We take exception with whoever is proposing to overthrow Wilson Sossion and constitutionally bearing in mind that Knut Secretary General is not fighting the employer TSC for his personal gain. He is doing so (forcefully fighting TSC) by advancing and protecting the interests of Knut members in its entirety,” said Mr Atwoli in a statement on Wednesday.
“Cotu appeals to the Knut leadership to embrace harmony for purposes of industrial peace in the country and for the sake of our children,” he added.
He also condemned attempts by TSC to stifle the operations of Knut by withholding union dues from its members.
“These amounts to arm twisting, harassment and intimidation of unions in order to toe the line of the employer,” he said.
Despite having accompanied Mr Sossion to various press conferences and meetings, the top leadership says they are never consulted before pronouncements on various issues by their boss.
“We expect him to consult NEC or steering committee before going public but that has not been the case,” said an official.
Recently, Knut has seen its relations with TSC worsen. Last Friday, Knut officials were locked out of the third national conference on the competency-based curriculum because they had not registered to attend.