Kenya:Teachers make fresh demand before calling off strike
The education system was plunged into fresh confusion and uncertainty after teachers demanded that their employer withdraw an appeal it has lodged in court as a precondition for calling off the strike.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) declared it was ready to call off the one-month strike if their employer, the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC), and the government withdraw all legal challenges against implementation of the 50-60 per cent pay increase.
“Implementation of Justice (Nduma) Nderi’s award and these appeals (in court) against the award, which appeals seek to set aside the said award, are mutually exclusive.
“The two cannot proceed concurrently.
“It is for the foregoing reasons that Knut calls on the government to confirm the appeals will be withdrawn to clear the way for implementation of Justice (Nelson) Abuodha’s judgment,” said Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion. The TSC appeal is scheduled to be heard on Tuesday.
The two giant unions, Knut and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), have summoned their top decision-making organs for a meeting in Nairobi Monday to deliberate on the way forward.
The situation compounds the confusion for millions of parents and students, especially the 1.4 million candidates who are set to sit their final national examinations.
Oral and practical examinations for high school students in some subjects are scheduled to begin Monday.
(READ: Court suspends teachers strike)
NEW TERM DATES
The government has directed the re-opening of all public schools on Monday and announced new term dates running until November 20.
Parents have demanded a swift resolution and asked the government to consider extending the third term by four weeks to cover for lost time.
“We will be taking up the matter with the government next week,” said Kenya National Parents Association Secretary-General Musau Ndunda.
On Saturday, Cord leader Raila Odinga weighed in with a call to the government to resolve the crisis instead of engaging in trivialities.
“Let them stop indulging in politics. This country is in a serious situation. We are going through a major crisis. Schools are closed. Children are at home.
“Teachers are at home. This is what the government should be addressing.
“The government needs to act with speed to end the crisis. Instead of concentrating their energies and efforts on this, they are concerned with trivialities. They are not concerned with the plight of Kenyans. They are operating as if they live on the moon,” said Mr Odinga.
NO ENOUGH MONEY
However, two Jubilee coalition senators Ms Joy Gwendo and Ms Naisula Lesuda repeated President Uhuru Kenyatta’s message that the country did not have enough money to pay teachers at the moment.
“I support the statement that was made by the President and negotiations should take place between the teachers’ unions, TSC and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission,” Ms Gwendo said.
Knut and Kuppet Saturday said they would abide by the Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Abuodha’s directive to the two teachers’ unions to suspend the strike and to give dialogue a chance, with some conditions.
In his judgment, Justice Abuodha declined to state that the teachers engaged in an unprotected strike, only directing the boycott to be suspended for 90 days to enable dialogue.
Hours after the ruling, Knut fired the first salvo to the TSC through a letter in which it demanded that the commission indicates its commitment to respect the court’s ruling.
The judgment will put to the test the government’s commitment to respect court orders after the judge directed that within 30 days, the unions and TSC, with the help of the Cabinet Secretary for Labour, should appoint a neutral and mutually agreeable conciliator or conciliation committee and engage in good faith negotiations.
The talks will be limited to exploring viable modalities of implementing the award in petition No 5 of 2015 bearing in mind the government’s fiscal policies and budgetary cycle.
Last Sunday, President Kenyatta ruled out paying the 288,060 teachers the 50-60 per cent pay rise and SRC chairperson Sarah Serem has threatened to resign if the award is implemented.
“Unless the TSC and the government intend to appeal against this judgment of Justice Abuodha, its implementation demands that the TSC and the Government of Kenya abandon Appeals Nos 195, 196 and 203; being appeals from the judgment of Justice Nderi in Petition No 5 of 2015,” said Mr Sossion in the letter.
He went on: “Implementation of Justice Nderi’s award and these appeals against the award, which appeals seek to set aside the said award; are mutually exclusive. The two cannot proceed concurrently.”
He said the government and the TSC must confirm that the appeals will be withdrawn to clear the way for the implementation of the judgment.
“Knut is anxious to comply with every aspect of Justice Abuodha’s judgment/orders and for that reason requests the Government’s and the TSC’s immediate response to enable Knut to advise its members appropriately with regard to suspension of the strike, resumption of duties and commencement of conciliation proceedings on implementation of Hon Justice Nderi’s award,” said Mr Sossion.
However, TSC took a swipe at Mr Sossion, accusing him of conducting union activities through the media instead of engaging the commission through the laid-down procedures.
“It is dishonest and a demonstration of bad faith for Mr Sossion to release a letter to the media addressed to TSC without even the commission being aware of such a communication,” said TSC spokesman Kihumba Kamotho.
He insisted that the commission is yet to get a brief on the ruling from its lawyers and, therefore, it will be premature to state its position.
“Discussions by the commission cannot be spontaneous as the issue has to be subjected to the commission’s procedures,” said Mr Kamotho.
Mr Sossion said the union leaders will use the Monday meeting to brief the national executive council about the court ruling, adding that the final decision on the strike lies with NEC.
However, he said that as a union they are happy with Friday’s court ruling but warned that it was too early to celebrate.
“As we speak, the strike is on and there will be no learning on Monday until we agree on the way forward. We will be in court on Monday afternoon to brief the court on the progress,” added Mr Sossion.
Kuppet Secretary General Akelo Misori said the union leaders would give national governing council members a brief on the ruling and they would decide the way forward.
WAIT FOR UNION’S GO-AHEAD
However, he insisted that teachers would continue to stay away from class until they get the go-ahead from the union.
“We have not resumed work, and it’s not the secretary-general to decide and therefore its premature to state what the national governing council will decide,” said Mr Misori.
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi declined to be drawn into the debate, saying that it is the ministry of Labour that is well positioned to comment on the matter.
“The Labour ministry is the one that has been tasked with conciliation efforts,” said Prof Kaimenyi.
Attempts to get comments from Principal Secretary for Labour Ali Noor Ismael were unsuccessful as he did not respond to text messages or return calls.
Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi was suspended in March and his Defence counterpart Raychelle Omamo has been acting as the head.
But a senior official at the ministry said it would take some days before the conciliation committee could be formed since the ruling was made on Friday.
The Kenya National Parents and Teachers Association chairman Nathan Barasa said teachers would put in extra efforts once schools resume to make up for lost time.