NAIROBI, Kenya, July 1 – Industrial Court Judge Linnet Ndolo has ordered all striking teachers to return to their work stations by Tuesday morning.
The judge ruled that the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) strike is illegal as no notice was served before its commencement and that all the avenues of negotiation had not been exhausted.
Ndolo was however cognisant of the teachers’ grievances and ordered that the Ministry of Labour should engage both KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) in resolving the dispute over their allowances.
“It is true that every time the teachers down their tools the children under their watch and tutelage suffer immeasurably. However, this cannot be used as a justification to push the rights of the teachers’ underfoot. The employer of the teachers and by extension the government must secure the rights of the teachers,” Ndolo said.
The judge ordered the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the petitioners in the case and KNUT, one of the respondents, to resolve the dispute surrounding Legal Notice 534 of 1997 and Legal Notice 16 of 2003 under the mediation of the Ministry of Labour before returning to court in two weeks, come Monday July 15.
“It seems to me that the parties differed on the actual import of the amendment to Legal Notice 534 of 1997. The petitioner told the court that a conciliator appointed by the Minister for Labour was unable to resolve the dispute which is now the subject of the ongoing strike,” Ndolo said.
The Ministry of Education through its Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and the Ministry of Labour through Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi have gone on record stating that the government is not bound by Legal Notice 534 of 1997 but by the amendments captured in Legal Notice 16 of 2003.
KNUT on the other hand is adamant that it will not even consider negotiations unless they are based on Legal Notice 534 of 1997.
Ndolo also directed the Ministry of Labour to arbitrate between the TSC and KUPPET on the subject of commuter, leave and responsibility allowances even as the former claimed it was not bound by a Collective Bargaining Agreement.
“Unlike in the private sector, industrial relations in the public sector have not been governed by Collective Bargaining Agreements… this practice has been around for a long time and the petitioner cannot disown a system that it has employed over the years,” Ndolo determined.
TSC’s legal representative Alan Sitima welcomed the ruling. “We got what we wanted, a temporary injunction on the strike and the unions being ordered to attend negotiations.”
Sitima’s optimism may however be premature as KNUT dug in its heels, while KUPPET Secretary General Akelo Misori maintained that they will have to consult their legal team before calling off the strike.