, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 11 – Parents and students can breathe easy for a while after the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) suspended its threat to strike following a meeting with the Teachers Service Commission on Thursday.
The four-hour long meeting saw KNUT give the government more time to analyse their demands pending another meeting scheduled for September 30, and if this meeting does not go well, then according to the officials, within seven-days, the strike notice will be enforced.
“We’ve made extremely reasonable progress, and negotiations are not done in a day, we need tangible proposals on the table and those are the engagements we have been engaged in the whole afternoon–We’ve given the government a few more days as we extend the strike deadline,” said KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion soon after the meeting.
The meeting also raised hopes for teachers who have constantly grappled with meager pay notwithstanding the high expectations from their students, joy the KNUT Chairman Mudzo Nzili openly expressed.
“We are leaving these offices today with high hopes that the committee is positive on the deliberations on teachers’ salaries and other allowances and other conditions of service and as a matter of fact the entire committee is in agreement that there was need for serious deliberations on the teachers’ terms of services particularly on salaries,” said Nzili.
The consultative meeting brought together the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) who unlike their counterparts did not leave a happy lot.
Their demands for a 200 percent pay increase were rejected as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) needed to consult with the Salaries and Remuneration Commission on the viability of the demands and give their feedback at the end of September.
Owing to this, the Unions’ Secretary General Akello Misori said they would hold a meeting next week citing that if their demands are not considered, they would go on strike.
KNUT is also demanding an increment in teacher’s salaries and some of the allowances that had not been considered after last year’s strike.
Earlier in the day, KNUT officials had threatened to call for a strike if the meeting did not bear fruits.
“We are calling upon the teachers of Kenya today to prepare for the worst engagement, because we have seen that it is only teachers of Kenya who have been subjected to economic embarrassment. The employer and the government must today put money on the table, teachers of Kenya do not shop using conditions of service, they shop using money,” retorted the unions’ Chairman Mudzo Nzili during a press briefing two hours before the much awaited meeting with TSC.
KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion had warned the government that any attempts to stall the talks would result in industrial action.
“There are three levels of mischief – to use briefcase unions to distract us from negotiating; they will still use the TSC to attempt to delay and then the last hurdle we know they will use the SRC to further delay. If that is what they are setting for us, then ladies and gentlemen we promise you a strike that has never been seen in this country, “stated Sossion in the same press conference.
KNUT and KUPPET have most recently been engaged in a tug-of-war over who should take charge of the talks with TSC; with KNUT emphasizing its mandate in representing teachers saying other unions were ‘briefcase unions’ owing to their membership.
KNUT, he said, represents 201,249 members, compared to KUPPET with 36,186 members and KUSNET with 12 members.
The KNUT leaders had accused the government of registering many unions which they refer to as ‘briefcase’ to confuse teachers insisting that this will not deter them from their mission.
They also insisted that they have never signed a binding Collective Bargaining Agreement since the strike last year, adding to say the agreement should have been finalized by 1st July this year. Sossion further said that the negotiation needed to be concluded so as to begin its implementation.
“Today if the talks collapse, we can assure you it is not us who will collapse the talks, it can only be collapsed by the government—we are going there with open minds,” Sossion added.
The officials further added that they would not relent in pursuing justice for teachers as they were simply demanding what was rightfully theirs.