Court outlaws Kenya teachers strike

January 23, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 23 – The Industrial Court has declared the ongoing teachers strike illegal and has allowed the Teachers Service Commission to take disciplinary action including withdrawal of salaries for those who participate in the strike.

Justice Isaac Mukunya gave the orders after representatives of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) failed to appear in court for the hearing of the case on Friday morning.

“It is you the employer to know what to do with your employees,” Justice Mukunya said.

Justice Mukunya however rejected an application by TSC lawyer Vane Akama to order the arrest of KNUT’s Chairman, Secretary General and Treasurer for contempt of court saying that the court did not have such jurisdiction.

“They are not the only ones on strike it is the entire teaching fraternity. Their pictures will go round the world and you will succeed in transforming the officials into heroes,” the Judge said.

Ms Akama had argued that by arresting the three officials their followers would be forced to get back to class.

As the case progressed in court, police lobbed teargas canisters at dozens of teachers and branch union officials, who were demonstrating outside the KNUT headquarters. Kihara Gathinji from Dagoretti branch said the teachers had blocked the KNUT exit to bar the union officials from attending the hearing.

“You know if they went to the court we would have been forced to go back to class because that is the procedure,” he said.

TSC moved to court to block the strike and despite an injunction obtained temporarily blocking the action; teachers downed their tools on Monday. The court allowed TSC to use substituted service by advertisement on Thursday after union officials failed to appear in court last Tuesday claiming they were not served.

The strike that entered its fifth day has paralysed learning in over 19,000 primary schools countrywide affecting more than eight million children. The cabinet on Thursday urged the teachers to call off their strike and offered to meet their pay demands in 25 months but the union has given mixed responses.

Teachers want a lump sum payment amounting to Sh19 billion but the State had insisted that it could only pay Sh17.3 billion in phases citing economic limitations. The Labour Minister appointed an arbitration panel last Friday after talks between KNUT and TSC collapsed, but the government negotiator who is arbitrating the dispute said no progress could be realised unless the Education ministry ceded more ground.

Deputy Labour Commissioner Alice Tabu told Capital News on phone that it would be fruitless to call the KNUT officials to the negotiating table, if the government stuck to the same offer that the teachers had rejected.

Ms Tabu had also said that the arbitration had been halted by the court case. KNUT appeared to cede ground on Tuesday saying it was willing to wait another six months before the government accorded them the entire pay-rise.

The strike that had widely affected primary schools has now been reported to spread to secondary schools and colleges.  Learning in almost all secondary schools in the larger Laikipia region were paralysed on Friday as striking teachers forcefully ejected their colleagues who had reported to work.

The striking teachers moved from one school to another and forced their colleagues who had reported to work to join them in the nationwide strike.

Similar reports were also received from parts of Kisumu and Nyeri.


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