Kenya: Knut digs in as talks on teachers’ strike hits deadlock

Talks to avert a strike called by the Kenya National Union of Teachers ended in deadlock Monday evening as the union insisted that the transfer of more than 3,000 teachers be revoked.

Earlier, Knut had been ordered by the Employment and Labour Court to participate in conciliatory talks under an arbitrator appointed by Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani.

However, Knut officials led by Secretary General Wilson Sossion vowed to press on with the strike unless their key demand that the transfer of teachers is rescinded is met.

“Teachers have in the past gone on strike even when there are court orders. The mood of teachers is known. We will not make straight comments on what we have not seen and have not heard,” Mr Sossion said.


TSC has served the union with the order through a notice published in the Nation Tuesday, in what is called substituted service.

Sources at the talks said the sticking point centred on the delocalisation policy, with Knut demanding that the ongoing mass transfers of headteachers and deputies be stopped and those already effected be revoked immediately.

A senior TSC official involved in the transfers said Knut was passionately opposed to the changes because many of its officials had been moved away from the stations where they were elected.

“Knut is apprehensive that the transfers will weaken its network across the country because some of its officials have been moved. TSC has no way of knowing who is an official and who is not.

We are just transferring those who we think should be moved for their own professional growth and better management of schools,” he said.

Mr Sossion is said to have protested during the talks at TSC headquarters and later at the Labour ministry that the transfers “were punitive and were being carried out arbitrarily without consideration of special and peculiar circumstances”.

The union has asked its 180,000 members to boycott work over mass transfer of headteachers, lack of promotion of teachers who have attained higher qualifications and a review of new performance contracting system.


In response, TSC — led by chairperson Lydia Nzomo — said the transfers could not be revoked because 3,094 teachers had already been moved and reported to their new stations. These, Ms Nzomo said, include deputies who have been promoted to headship and that it would hurt their careers if the appointments were revoked.

Still, she argued that some of those recently transferred were not Knut members and therefore not part of the dispute.

At a briefing after the talks flopped, which TSC skipped, Mr Sossion said it was dishonest of the employer to seek court protection when it had called for reconciliation in the first instance.

“TSC cannot use court to defend its dictatorship. We respect court orders but teachers cannot be bullied by a dictatorial employer,” Mr Sossion said.

At the hearing of the petition, Justice Byram Ongaya directed parties to engage in dialogue and allowed TSC to serve the order through a newspaper advertisement.

Meanwhile, Labour CS Ukur Yattani termed the planned strike as unconstitutional.

“I direct Knut and TSC to co-operate with the conciliation committee. The strike is not in good faith and will affect schools opening on Thursday,” Mr Yattani said.


“We will continue talks on Wednesday and see if we will be able to avert the strike,” he added.

In an affidavit, Ms Macharia urged the court to stop the strike pending the conciliation talks.

She also asked the court to compel Knut to make a list of teachers due for promotion under the prevailing terms and conditions of service.

The TSC boss said the list should include existing career guidelines and the provision of the collective agreement and TSC’s code of regulations for them to make appropriate decision on individual cases.

She said TSC will also decide on the applications for review or appeal against the transfers, which have been made by individual teachers, adding that no teacher will be victimised or harassed.

Ms Macharia also wants the court to direct parties to continue with the negotiations on the review instruments, processes and procedure on performance contracting or management.

The case will be heard on Wednesday.

By Daily Nation

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