NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) top organ has given their management the go-ahead to call for a strike in January.
KNUT delegates voted in favour of a strike at their annual conference on Tuesday, should the government fail to present them with a substantive offer before schools reopen next year.
The delegates took the decision after their Secretary General Wilson Sossion informed them that even after calling off their strike last year to allow for negotiations towards the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement, no progress had been made.
“Where else in the history of the world has a government called for negotiations and then failed to put anything on the table 26 meetings in? They should have first gotten their house in order before engaging us. Not withdraw offers because they hadn’t consulted the Treasury or the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC),” he said.
Treasury and SRC, Sossion argued, were being used as, “simply another ploy,” to take teachers on, “a merry-go ride.”
“It’s always one thing after another but this will not simply be another strike after another,” Sossion promised.
As articulated by Dr Charles Mukhwaya of the Trade Union Congress on Monday, Sossion — who is also the Congress’ General Secretary – said the threatened teachers’ strike might escalate into a general public service strike action.
“This is because those in public service are facing the same challenge – the SRC,” he said.
The SRC, Sossion claimed, was frustrating the better remuneration of not just teachers, but public servants in general.
“What is this job evaluation animal?” he posed. “As teachers it is clear what our job descriptions are and what qualifications we require. It’s also a bit like trying to attach reins on a horse after opening the barn door by calling for evaluations in the middle of negotiations.”
The union, he said, would therefore only sit at the negotiating table with their constitutionally created employer: The Teachers Service Commission.
“We will not stand for the attempts to usurp the role of the TSC,” he said.
The county governments and the Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi, he said, already being guilty of that. “County governments have no business hiring additional teachers on contract and the CS has no business contracting school heads. They go where they’re assigned by the TSC.”
The union therefore passed as another resolution, a demand for the hiring of 40,000 teachers in the coming financial year and 20,000 every year for three years after that.
Apart from a 300 percent salary rise and an increase in allowances, the teachers are demanding that said allowances be exempt from tax.
They also want the minimum taxable income raised from Sh11, 140 to Sh30,000 and their tax relief increased from about Sh2,000 to Sh4,000.
The union also maintains that their members will not even consider contributing to the National Social Security Fund or the National Health Insurance Fund until their basic pay is increased.
On the grounds that it will lower quality and given the government’s failure to present a viable alternative, they want an immediate reversal of the decision to abolish school and student rankings based on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam results.
They also want the government to facilitate the ‘free’ education of special needs children all the way to university and full compensation for teachers, “killed in the line of duty,” following the execution of 24 teachers in Mandera last month.