Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has told the tutors’ employer to pay all pending dues or face a strike.
Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion in a statement accused Teachers Service Commission (TSC) of pushing them to call for a strike in January when schools resume, saying: ‘It is the only medicine the commission understands’.
Sossion said TSC has been punishing the union by denying them dues and even removed Knut members from its official register in an attempt to cripple its operations.
“We have told our members not to shut down any branch. We will also not lay off any staff. Even without salaries, we will withstand this pressure. When we do not get any salaries and our resources to work, the only thing we can think about is war with you (TSC),” Sossion said.
He also said despite TSC’s interference with Knut’s register and denying them monthly dues, the union will from January 4 conduct its elections. All members will participate.
“We will release the calendar for elections. We are already working on other avenues. We will begin our elections as we dance a song, the only medicine TSC understands is a strike. Maybe that is what the commission is asking for, and if that is what they want, we will have no option to prepare for it,” Sossion said.
“We have no problem with the Government; we have isolated the employer as the father of impunity in this country so we are preparing and we are coming. Wacha hii mgomo ya madaktari (forget the doctors’ strike), this will be mother of all if it and we will get to that but we have asked them can you comply and avert this catastrophe,” added Sossion.
He regretted that this is not the time to engage in labour disputes when the country is busy fighting Covid-19 challenges.
“When there is money to pay teachers, pay them and respect the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Do not engage in ego wars that do not help. We wanted peace, we have been persuaded by key leaders in the country to refrain ourselves from organising our members for strike, but where it has reached we cannot contain the pressure from our members anymore,” Sossion added.
The Secretary-General said Knut signed a CBA, but the employer decided to unilaterally suspend it. In the process of suspending the CBA, Sossion said TSC not only blacklisted Knut members but also denied them promotion and that is not ‘something that will create peace.’
He accused TSC of misleading the Government in as far as implementing their CBA is concerned.
“We are in good books with Government and so the employer cannot build bad blood – brew bad blood – between us and the Government. TSC is squarely on the wrong and courts have proved. They have gone to the Court of Appeal and flopped,” explained Sossion.
He said in the forthcoming Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the TSC architecture must be revisited so that it is democratic and accountable to teachers.
Sossion stated that the minimum Knut will be asking for is to appoint its own commissioner to sit in TSC – one we can hire and fire.
Sossion said that in June last year, Knut had 187,00 members in the register, which was then reduced to zero in July and August.
“Did all the 187,000 teachers apply to withdraw from Knut in the month of August? That is the question we are asking TSC. Then in September, the figures changed to 115,000. Did also the 115,000 members apply to re-join the union? The figures kept changing over the months and it is clear because the union keeps the register, not the employer. In December it was zero, did all the teachers again apply to withdraw from the union again?” he asked.