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Tough choices for head teachers in mediation

Friday February 1 2019

TEACHERS

Kenya National Union of Teachers officials leave the Employment and Labour Relations court at Milimani on January 31, 2019 after the mention of a case between the union and Teachers Service Commission. Knut and TSC have been told to embrace alternative dispute resolution. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

SAM KIPLAGAT
By SAM KIPLAGAT
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Teachers holding school administrative posts and are also union officials must give up one position, a conciliation team recommended yesterday.

The team appointed to mediate a dispute between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) said the administrators should either relinquish their elective posts and serve their employer, or vice versa, to avoid a conflict of interest.

This means that about 21,000 primary school heads, 22,000 deputies and 23,000 senior teachers, who are Knut officials will most likely have to give up union politics and focus on teaching.

The team appointed by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani late last year has been trying to arbitrate between the union and the TSC over teacher transfers, performance contracting, professional development programmes and promotions. Mr Charles Maranga is chairing the nine-member team.

TRANSFERS

Knut had last year asked its 200,000 members not to report to work in the beginning of the year until the new policies, which it said were punitive, were shelved and renegotiated.

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In a report tabled in court yesterday, the team recommended that the TSC should only transfer union officials within their locality until the end of their term.

The committee endorsed the delocalisation policy, which stipulates that teachers be moved outside their home regions to enhance social integration and foster an appreciation of various cultures.

It said the transfers are lawful, procedural and within the purview of the employment contracts.

The committee, however, asked the TSC to consult Knut before moving the teachers, “for good industrial relations”.

BREACH

Knut’s position is that the TSC has been carrying out the transfers and promotions arbitrarily, contrary to the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).

The union has also accused the TSC of coming up with career progression guidelines outside the CBA and of acting in bad faith by transferring teachers in breach of the code of regulations.

The committee recommended that TSC should continue with the transfer of head teachers and administrators who are not union officials, in accordance with the code of regulations for teachers.

It said that school managers could not be expected to competently appraise and supervise teachers who had elected them to union positions.

It said administrators are appointed and charged with managerial and administrative duties, such as supervising curriculum implementation, ensuring safety and security of institutional resources and recommending teachers for promotion.

APPRAISAL

On performance contracting, the team noted that Knut was fully involved in the development, piloting and review of the appraisal tool.

It said: “It is inaccurate for the union to claim that TSC failed, declined, refused or neglected to fully consult them in the development of the performance contracting and appraisal tool.”

The team proposed that Knut be granted two days to submit its input on the appraisal system to TSC and the two should then record their agreement.

On career progression guidelines, the team concluded that they were developed without consultations.

It asked both parties to form a team to review them within 30 days.

Knut had claimed that more than 30,000 teachers are eligible for promotions after attaining higher academic qualifications and professional experience but that they had been sidelined. The team replied that only 12,000 teachers submitted their qualification details seeking promotions.

NEGOTIATE

The union had also claimed that 3,094 teachers had been moved unfairly. The committee noted that only 278 had appealed or filed for review.

The team proposed that in future, TSC and Knut should negotiate on the level of union representation, which should be anchored in the recognition agreement and the CBAs.

To end perennial wrangles, the committee recommended setting up a standing Joint Industrial Council that should be chaired by a neutral person, conversant with employment and labour issues.

The parties should also embrace alternative dispute resolution. The Employment Court stopped Knut from going on strike on January 2 and asked the parties to hold talks.

Justice Maureen Onyango wants the parties to study the recommendations and appear before her on February 18.