The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) failed to show up for a meeting meant to avert a strike by a section of its workers yesterday.
The failure by TSC to appear for the mediation called by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani baffled arbitrators, prompting the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) to accuse the employer of acting in bad faith.
Knut also said the strike would go on despite a court order suspending it issued on Monday.
“The employer has been playing tricks and trying to paint the union in bad light and suggesting that we are the ones who are not willing to engage in talks yet they are the ones avoiding talks,” Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion said after the talks aborted due to TSC’s absence.
TSC however said it was not aware of the meeting.
“We were not aware of any meeting planned to happen today. By the time we left the negotiation meeting on Monday evening there was no scheduled meeting,” TSC communications officer Kihumba Kamotho said.
His assertion is at variance with the direction given by Mr Yattani on Monday after the talks hit a deadlock.
“I direct Knut and TSC to cooperate with the conciliation committee. We will continue talks tomorrow (Tuesday) and see if we will be able to avert the strike,” Mr Yattani said.
Schools reopen tomorrow and the strike will disrupt activities of children and parents alike.
Despite calling for the conciliatory talks, TSC appears to have placed its bet on averting the strike on the Employment and Labour Relations Court that stopped the strike on New Year’s Eve and its orders served to Knut through newspaper adverts yesterday.
Mr Sossion said Knut officials would attend court today as ordered by Justice Byron Ongaya on Monday.
But he said the fate of the order suspending the strike will be determined during the interparty hearing and that, as of now, the strike is still on.
Yesterday’s meeting was meant to iron out the sticking points between Knut and TSC in order to avert the strike that starts today, going by the notice issued on December 19.
“We showed up for the meeting and the conciliation committee was also shocked that the employer did not turn up,” Mr Sossion said.
A key factor in resolving the dispute will be whether the parties identify the potential deal-breaker and close ranks on it.
The TSC believes Knut’s key demand is revocation of the transfer of 3,094 teachers.
But the union said yesterday it would only call off the strike once its demand for promotion of 30,000 teachers who have attained higher qualifications is addressed.
Mr Sossion said teachers must be promoted based on their academic qualifications.
The court asked Knut to provide a list of teachers it wants promoted but Mr Sossion said this information is already with the employer.
“Teachers due for promotion have already presented their higher academic qualifications to the commission, but no action has been taken,” he said.
He asked teachers who have been transferred under the delocalisation policy not to report to their new stations.
But Mr Kamotho said the transfers had been concluded with head teachers handing over to their successors who were being moved for various reasons including retirement, promotions, individual requests and to enhance quality.
“All the heads of institutions who were either deployed or transferred have handed over and/or taken over as appropriate. They have also signed the necessary documentation including resource accountability instruments.
"They will be available in their new stations to receive learners on January 3 for the commencement of first term learning programmes,” Mr Kamotho said.
Although the court directed TSC to consider appeals against the transfers individually, Knut said TSC cannot consider them as they were also before the conciliation committee and had not been decided upon.
Mr Sossion said the other grievance was on performance appraisal, contracting and professional development which, he added, teachers were not consulted over.
“Before any policy is implemented, the employer is required to seek stakeholders’ views,” he explained.
The Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers — Knut’s rival — with a membership of 45,000 has called a national governing council meeting today to discuss promotions and appraisal of teachers and the 1.5 percent housing fund contribution.