NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – Daggers are drawn in the teaching fraternity with two unions engaged in a war of words over membership wrangles and a controversial pay deal with the government.,
The Kenya National Union of Teachers on Wednesday maintained it would go on with its strike on January 19, a day after the rival Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers formally accepted a pay increase spread over three years, and called off its own industrial action.
KNUT Secretary General Lawrence Majali accused the rival union of ‘stealing’ it’s deal and threatened to seek legal redress over the issue plus the alleged illegal poaching of its members.
“In purporting to accept salaries they have not negotiated KUPPET officials are engaging in plagiarism, fraud, forgery and a theft of our intellectual property,” he said adding that the deal negotiated by KNUT for the last nine months was ‘a property of KNUT.’
The Sh17 billion deal signed by KUPPET on Tuesday is spread over a three year period, which is a similar package that the government and KNUT disagreed on. The KNUT deal fronted by the government would also have been spread over a three-year period but amounted to some Sh19 billion. KNUT rejected the terms saying they wanted a one-off payment made to all members.
Mr Majali termed the deal signed between the government and KUPPET null and void and said it would be taking ‘drastic measures’ against it.
The deal accepted by KUPPET on Tuesday included the harmonisation of the salaries for teachers in secondary schools and tertiary institutions to be effected between July this year and July 2010.
In a quick rejoinder to the accusations, KUPPET insisted that the deal was binding and denied the claims that it was engaged in illegal registration of KNUT members.
“Our agreement is between us and the employer and the TSC signed on behalf of the government. The Education PS, who is the chief accounting officer of the ministry, also signed,” KUPPET chairman Akelo Misori said.
KUPPET Secretary General Njeru Kanyamba told a news conference that the accusations were unfounded and challenged KNUT to produce evidence.
‘We are not colluding with anybody and let those who are making allegations report to the police. We are not registering any members here they are being registered at the TSC,” Mr Kanyamba said in defence.
However Mr Majali produced forms which he alleged had forged signatures and said they had received complaints from teachers whose membership had been transferred without their consent. He accused the government of using its rival to divide teachers and frustrate efforts to champion for better pay.
He accused top officials at the Ministry of Education and the Teachers Service Commission of colluding to subvert the rule of law.
After talks between the government and KNUT failed, the TSC issued formal recognition to KUPPET and went on to sign the pay deal although the union was not enjoined in the consultations that led to the agreement.
KNUT (registered in 1957) is the giant union representing more than two thirds of the teaching fraternity. KUPPET (registered in 1998) had not been formally recognised by the TSC until last November. Interestingly TSC only issued the formal letter last week after talks with KNUT collapsed and is yet to sign a recognition agreement with the union.
KUPPET has been on a massive recruitment drive in the last half year in a bid to achieve the pre-requisite 51 percent membership.
KNUT said it would seek to be paid ‘agency fees’ if the deal was implemented. “If they want to benefit from the deal they have to pay two percent of their salary to benefit from our sweat,” Mr Majali said of KUPPET’s members.
Mr Majali maintained that they would not be cowed by the developments and insisted that the government must pay their increase lump sum starting this month. “This is a complete withdrawal of our labour. Do not go to sit in the schools and say it a go slow,’ Mr Majali said in his message to teachers.
Education Minister Sam Ongeri has insisted that the government cannot afford to pay the agreement wholesome and is expected to refer the matter to the Ministry of Labour which will in turn send it to the Industrial Court for arbitration.
Meanwhile secondary school teachers in Nyanza province booed and heckled KUPPET officials during the provincial form one intake in Kisumu.
The officials including the chairman Odhiambo Orem and his secretary Kepher Oguwi were forced to cut short their speeches after the teachers turned noisy.
Mr Orem had told the teachers that the next Monday’s strike was unnecessary since what the government had offered them was fair.