Negotiations between the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) on pay raises have resumed, with the union reportedly pushing for a basic salary increase of 15 to 20%.
Knut is also optimistic that the non-monetary collective bargaining agreement (CBA) it signed with TSC in July of last year will be reviewed soon.
Collins Oyuu, Secretary-General of Knut, revealed that the union had held five meetings with TSC to address the issue, with a sixth scheduled to take place in the coming days.
Knut’s National Steering Committee will meet in Nairobi on Tuesday to fine-tune the proposals to be presented at the TSC meeting.
Though Mr Oyuu declined to discuss the proposal’s specifics, multiple sources have indicated that the union was willing to accept any counter-proposal from the commission in order to appease its members who felt cheated by the “empty” CBA signed last year.
“I want to announce to teachers that the negotiations that were stopped on the salary increment under the watch of the former union leadership have now been re-opened,” said Mr Oyuu.
He added: “I am engaging TSC properly to have the CBA that was signed reviewed, especially in relation to the salary component … I can assure you that we shall succeed,” said Mr Oyuu.
The union will also advocate for the advancement of deputy headteachers in educational institutions across the country.
Mr Oyuu asked union members to be patient while speaking in Kericho County with the union’s first national vice chairman Stanley Mutai and National Executive Council member Malel Langat.
Teachers have accused Mr Oyuu’s team of hastily signing the CBA with TSC last year in order to legitimize its existence in the face of dwindling membership and financial resources.
“We are pushing for the appointment of deputy headteachers in schools as the majority of the learning institutions do not have the administrators who play a leading role in daily operations and discipline among students,” said Mr Oyuu.
The union only obtained an enhanced maternity leave, which was increased from 90 to 120 days, and paternity leave was pushed from 14 to 21 days as a result of the negotiations.
Knut ceded members from secondary schools and tertiary institutions to its rival, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, in the CBA (Kuppet).
TSC CEO Nancy Macharia has also been accused of coercing trade unions into signing a skewed CBA to the detriment of public school teachers.
Mr. Oyuu stated that the current Knut leadership will work closely with various government agencies to ensure that the teachers’ needs are met.
Oyuu noted that it is impossible to successfully oppose the current government when serious issues concerning the welfare of the members (teachers) are at stake.
“We embrace alternative dispute resolution avenues in place of strikes that were often deployed by past union leadership,” said Mr Oyuu.
As a result of the commission’s ongoing battles with TSC, Knut members have been left out of salary increases and promotions, particularly in the last five years.
During Mr Wilson Sossion’s tenure as secretary-general, the union’s membership fell from 187,000 to 15,000 as a result of a long-running feud with TSC and the Ministry of Education, fueled by a slew of legal battles in the industrial court.
It also resulted in the union’s earnings plummeting from more than Sh147 million per month to Sh12,000 by the time he resigned from the union leadership.
Mr. Oyuu described his leadership style as diplomatic.
“Some people asked me whether I would fit into his (Sossion’s) shoes when we took over the leadership mantle last year. I kept asking which shoes because I have my own shoes that fit me well,” said Mr Oyuu.
Mr Sossion, on the other hand, stated over the weekend in Kericho that the current perks enjoyed by teachers are the result of his fight to have salaries raised and the working environment improved.
Oyuu on his side insisted that all former national officials support the ongoing reforms he is implementing to turn around the union and attract more members.”
However, he accuses Mr Sossion of being the only one who, despite having left the union, continues to seek to rock it for his own selfish gain.