Knut surrenders, says now ready for a truce with TSC

Friday, August 14th, 2020 00:00 | By
Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion speaking in Nakuru over the weekend, where he objected to the proposal on the reintroduction of caning in schools. Photo/PD/Raphael Munge

Irene Githinji @gitshee

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is on its knees with operations grinding to a near halt.

The dwindled industrial relations between the teachers’ employer, Teachers Service Commission (TSC), and the union is to blame for the tough times.

From the TSC mutilating Knut’s register to inconsistent remission of union dues, receiving nil agency fees since June last year and closing a majority of its branch offices are some of the challenges it has been dealing with.

Knut deputy secretary general Hesbon Otieno said yesterday the union’s hope has been TSC works towards ensuring industrial peace between the two institutions and seeking out-of-court-solutions to go back to what it was before the ‘rivalry’ commenced.

“We are urging TSC to go by the National Assembly education committee’s directives issued earlier in the week, including reinstating Knut’s register and stop discriminating on teachers registered with the union.

Why does TSC want to kill Knut yet it is the very union that pushed to make it an independent constitutional commission?” asked Otieno.

Knut’s problems, said Otieno, commenced in 2017 after they signed the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and things have never been the same again.

So tough is the situation at Knut that it is reportedly headed ‘to its knees’ and can hardly sustain its branch staff and the 110 offices across the country.

The branch offices are being manned by executive secretaries, who are also not duly receiving their salaries.

Declining numbers

At the head office, only elected staff and a very lean team of the Secretariat are reporting to work, though not on a daily basis.

Otieno said the membership numbers have been declining every other month, reducing from 180,000 last year to about 49,000 lately.

This means that the union dues have drastically reduced from Sh130 million per month to about Sh49 million, and which it still does not get promptly as a result of budgeting for their activities has been thrown into disarray.

Yet, the dues are a union’s main source of funds and lifeline.

On the other hand, the union has not received the agency fees for a whole year, which is obtained from non-members of the union.

Otieno explained that in June last year, Knut had a membership of about 180,000 while Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) had about 80,000 members.

Out of the about 310,000 registered teachers in the country, Otieno said it means that about 50,000 of them are not members of either unions and the money they contribute is divided between the two unions.

However, he said that once the money is divided between the two unions, Kuppet is given its share but Knut does not, a situation that has been going on since June 2019.

It is against this backdrop that Knut is stretched since it cannot sustain its own activities.

“We have about 700 employees in 110 branches countrywide and they are now at home without pay.

Paying for statutory deductions has also been a challenge for the union,” said Otieno.

He regretted the fact that branch employees have gone without salaries since June last year, yet some of them are servicing loans, have families and children in schools.

Otieno also said that paying debts has not been easy for the union and even worse is that they are afraid of their property being auctioned.

“We cannot meet our obligations. Most branches are closed and we have been forced to ask our employees to stay at home until such a time the union stabilises.

Some branches’ property such as buses have been auctioned,’’ he regretted.

Remittance tussles

The union had to move to court after TSC failed to remit union dues for July, August and September 2019.

The court then ordered TSC to remit about Sh140 million, but that did not happen as promptly as the union expected, with Otieno saying that the highest they received since then was Sh94 million in October and has since been reducing significantly.

“We really want to go back to the good labour relations we had; we are ready to cede ground and TSC should also consider that,” said the deputy SG.

Knut is concerned that the current standoff between Knut and TSC has a great potential to damage the education sector and in particular the children and teachers who stand to be negatively affected, since they are innocent victims.

“TSC should stop interfering with the membership register and only implement check off deductions as provided for in law,” Otieno told the education committee on Wednesday.

Knut urged TSC to accept to regularly meet and engage recognised unions on all issues affecting teachers in line with its independent constitutional status mandate given by Kenyans.

“Knut is committed to industrial peace and has played a significant role in the development of teaching service including establishment of TSC and is ready to promote the goal of achieving quality teaching in all our public schools,” Knut told the committee.

The education committee directed TSC to immediately pay teachers who were left out in promotions during implementation of the third and fourth phases of 2017-21 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

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