NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 1 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has maintained that the teachers strike that they have dubbed “the mother of all strikes” will start on Monday as scheduled despite an industrial court ruling blocking it.
National Chairman Wilson Sossion said the union had not been served with the court order as of 6pm when he left office on Friday.
“I am making it very clear. We worked officially up to six o’clock. We are on a weekend and come Monday, we will not be in classes. So really we cannot discuss matters about courts. We respect the court of law, justice system and there fore we cannot what goes on out there,” he stated.
He pointed out that the ruling is flawed as teachers followed the law in calling the strike and they are within their constitutional rights to call for the industrial action.
“Ours is a legal dispute between us and the employer which is very legitimate,” he stated. “The strike is effectively on and we are asking our branches to get organized and all our teachers should report there come Monday.”
Sossion told teachers that only the Secretary General can call off the strike.
“Come Monday, Kenya will witness a mother of all strikes and teachers will not be in their classes. Our teachers are geared for the action and we are telling them that no one else will call off the strike until they hear the voice of the Secretary General David Okuta,” he said.
The industrial court blocked the strike after an application by the TSC arguing that talks were underway to address teachers pay grievances.
“We have been waiting for a positive gesture from the government side and none has been forthcoming. What we know that the Teachers Service commission (TSC) wrote to treasury one week ago to avail Sh13 billion to harmonise the teachers salaries with those of civil servants and also to address the other pending matters,” Sossion stated.
Justice Pyrum Ongaya gave the order following an application by the TSC objecting to the strike.
The TSC argues that the strike was illegal as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission was already addressing pay grievances.
Judge Ongaya also declared that every child has a right to education under the new Constitution.
The strike was called for by KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) both demanding pay increases for their members.
Both KNUT and KUPPET are now required to appear in court for the hearing of the case next Tuesday.
The union had issued a seven-day notice to the government on August 19 and indicated the strike would officially start when schools open for the third term.
The union is demanding salary increments, and other allowances amounting to more than Sh43 billion, from a deal they signed with the government in 1997 ending a teachers strike.
This amount includes a 300 percent salary increment, alongside responsibility allowance at 50 percent, 40 percent and 30 percent for principals and their deputies, senior teachers and heads of departments respectively.
Last week, Finance Minister Njeru Githae ruled out a pay increase for teachers, instead urging them to wait for the Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to harmonise salaries for all public servants.