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Court blocks teachers strike

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 17 – The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) has obtained a court order restraining the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) from holding a nationwide strike that is scheduled to start on Monday.

The Industrial Court issued the injunction blocking the strike until a case regarding a raging salary dispute before the court is heard and determined on Tuesday.

“The applicant is listed for hearing, before Judge Isaac Mukunya on 20th January 2009 at 2.15pm,” read in part the notice signed by the court’s Registrar Hellen Wasiwa.

TSC moved to court on Friday under a certificate of urgency to restrain the Union from calling on its members, employees of the commission, to join in the strike.

However court process servers, who had gone to serve the union’s officials on Saturday morning pasted the notice on the main entrance of the KNUT headquarters after they were denied entry.

“We came to serve the order from the Industrial Court, which is barring KNUT from the strike scheduled for 19th (of January) but we don’t have access to the premises,” one of the court servers complained.

The development came a day after a ‘Conciliation Committee’ was appointed by Labour Minister John Munyes to arbitrate the teachers pay dispute.

This follows the collapse of talks between TSC, Education Minister Sam Ongeri and KNUT last week, even as the commission outlawed the strike and warned of dire consequences should the teachers go ahead and down their tools.

The Union is demanding a lump sum payment of Sh19 billion in a harmonisation of their salaries with those of other civil servants of a similar job group. However the government maintains that it can only afford Sh17.1 billion to be paid over 36 months.

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The government says that if the teachers do go ahead with the strike they will forfeit its offer and the Industrial court will determine the matter.

In Meru, about 4,000 teachers from eight districts of Meru North and Meru Central regions, asked parents in the area to withdraw their children from schools ahead of their strike.

Led by Eastern province national executive council representative Mutwiri Inoti, the teachers said the parents should not hold teachers liable of any indiscipline cases by students during the go-slow.

They said they would not be cowed by the ‘sack threats’ adding that they would paralyze learning in public schools until their demands were met.

“We shall give a total eclipse to learning…let the government make real their threats to sack us,” Mr Mutwiri challenged.

The teachers also termed “illegal and irrelevant” the recent signing of a document between the government and another union the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), accepting the phased salary.

“Kuppet has been dubiously been given a recognition certificate and illegally signed an agreement with the government,” said Mr Mutwiri.

KUPPET officials have been largely condemned for agreeing to sign the contract with the government and abandoning their strike plans.

Primary school heads snubbed a meeting called by Imenti North District Education Officer while many secondary schools sent their students.

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