, NAIROBI, Kenya Sep 25 – The Employment and Labour Relations court has ordered the suspension of the ongoing teachers strike for 90 days to pave way for negotiations with the government on the pay increase awarded to them.
While declining to declare the strike as unprotected, Justice Nelson Abuodha also directed that a committee involving stakeholders in the dispute should be formed with 30 days to find an amicable solution to the crisis.
He stated that should the parties fail to resolve the matter within the stipulated period, the Kenya National Union of Teachers will be at liberty to declare a trade dispute.
“In the interest of the children in public schools, the respondents are hereby ordered to suspend for ninety days the strike that commenced on September 1 2015 with the consequence that the respondent’s members resume duties immediately. The petitioner and the respondents should within 30 days of this judgment with the help of the Cabinet Secretary for the time being in charge of Labour matters appoint a neutral and mutually agreeable conciliator or a reconciliation committee,” he ruled.
He also stressed the need for the State to respect court ruling and not to make pronouncements which might bring it into disrepute.
He pointed out that the mass action was not beneficial to either of the parties and a speedy solution should be sought.
“On the extreme end, the continuation of the strike is not good for either of the protagonist. For the teachers, it creates in them a moral dilemma of leaving the children whom they love to suffer and TSC, it makes them look insensitive to the plight of teachers. “They should engage in conciliation in good faith, limited to exploring the viable modalities of implementing the award in petition number 5 of 2015 bearing in mind the government’s fiscal policy and budgetary cycle,” he stated.
The judge also ordered the Teachers Service Commission to pay teachers their September salary, following an earlier threat to withhold it due to the strike.
“The petitioner will not victimize or in any way take any adverse step against the respondents’ members for participating in the strike called by the respondents in September 1 2015 and this includes payment of full salaries and allowances without any deductions whatsoever,” he said.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Wilson Sossion said he will not call off the strike immediately, “because this is a matter we need to consult first. The strike remains on and there is no doubt about that.”
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) welcomed the ruling but indicated that the declaration that they had a right to strike had legitimized the teachers’ cause.
“We welcome the ruling but we will need to consult first before announcing the way forward. This government does not obey court orders,” he said.
Teachers have been on strike since the schools opened for the third term, hampering learning—a move that led to the government order to close public and private schools until further notice. Private schools are however, open after their union obtained a court order.