The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) yesterday, 5th November threatened to cut links with the longest-serving teachers union, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT).
TSC gave KNUT a 60-day notice to revoke its recognition agreement with the commission on grounds that the inion does not meet the simple minimum required of all unions.
If TSC makes real their threat, it will mark a turning point in the history of the country’s trade unionism, while affecting primary school tutors.
Primary school teachers will have to operate without a union to air their grievances and rally them together in pushing for better terms.
They will not be able to do any CBA negotiations and give feedback of work to their employer, which will make TSC the ultimate decision-maker without opposition.
Founded in 1957, KNUT has been the oldest teachers union, until 1998 when Kuppet was formed to represent post-primary school teachers, but KNUT remained more vocal and more influential, many times giving the teachers’ employer a hard time by fearlessly leading long strikes in the course of fighting for teachers’ rights.
Apart from long teachers strikes that have been witnessed in the country, KNUT and TSC has had wars and endless court battles but what seemed to have prompted the latest decision of terminating KNUT’s recognition agreement is the disruption of Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) training across the country, led by KNUT’s Secretary General Wilson Sossion who was deregistered as a teacher last week by TSC.
Sources from the government said that this (CBC disruption), and the subsequent events that followed are what led to the bad blood between TSC and KNUT, leading TSC to call on the revocation of KNUT’s agreement.
Interestingly, KNUT has been enjoying its huge following until recently when the commission was fighting KNUT in court over career progression rules.
KNUT’s was rejecting the commission’s argument that upgrades should not be automatic but guided by existing vacancies and performance when TSC resorted to stopping the implementation of 2017-2021 CBA for teachers under KNUT.
It is the Labour Court’s ruling in favor of KNUT and TSC’s reaction to stop CBA for KNUT members that led to a major exodus of teachers from KNUT to its rival Kuppet, significantly reducing the number of members in KNUT.
KUPPET, whose recognition agreement with TSC is only eight years old, and which is largely passive and rarely opposes TSC, recently appeared to be in full support of the commission before the two school heads association bodies, Kepsha and Kessha joined them in criticizing KNUT.
TSC’s notice to KNUT dated 5th November, would be what will seem as KNUT’s last kicks, but they are not down yet, they have decided to challenge TSC’s decision in court.
During KNUT’s leadership crisis meeting, the officials wrote a tough letter to TSC demanding that an urgent meeting be held within seven days to tackle pending issues.
Reacting to TSC’s letter on the call to cut links, KNUT’s Wilson Sossion said that TSC was frustrating KNUT by inciting teachers to dump the union and that even with the lack of simple majority, the rule on simple majority applies only at the time of registration.
“TSC is attacking KNUT by illegally introducing a validation portal which targeted KNUT members and saw about 16,000 members ditch the union,” said Sossion.
Other trade unionists led by the Central Organization of Trade Union (Cotu) said that TSC was unfair in their decision and called on the two parties to settle their differences.
Cotu secretary-general, Mr. Francis Atwoli said that they would reject TSC decision at the Labour Court since it was unconstitutional and against labor laws.
“TSC has no power to do what they want. They must follow the law. In Kenya today, even five people can sign a CBA, which is why we will reject their decision in court,” said Atwoli.
Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and Kenya University Staff Union leaders said they would give their views on the matter today, 6th November.