The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is slowly rebuilding after being weakened and losing thousands of its members.
According to the union leadership, membership has jumped to more than 114,000 in the ongoing recruitment that was launched last month.
The union had hit rock bottom under former secretary-general Wilson Sossion due to perennial wrangles with Teachers Service Commission (TSC) boss Nancy Macharia.
There are, however, signs of recovery as the new National Executive Council (NEC) has launched a massive campaign to rebuild its membership.
However, unlike before when Knut had membership from all cadres of teaching, it can now only represent primary school teachers after signing a new recognition agreement with the TSC, which has 223,218 primary school teachers in its employ.
Speaking to the Nation yesterday, secretary-general Collins Oyuu dismissed critics who say the union has become a government project.
“By June last year, the union membership had dropped from over 187,000 members to 14,000. Most of our branch offices were also non-operational as only 15 were functioning. The union is now back on its feet and all branches are operational,” he said.
Between June 2019 and June last year, Knut lost its huge following after TSC resorted to excluding them from promotions and pay increments contained in the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The commission also starved the union of dues from teachers.
Before the troubles began, the union used to receive over Sh144 million in monthly union dues. However, by last year, the income had dropped to less than Sh20 million, making it unable to pay salaries and medical insurance for its staff.
Mr Oyuu said yesterday that Knut has not been able to pay over Sh301 million in accrued debts to Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) despite receiving union dues and agency fees from non-members.
“We are surprised that someone who left the union willingly and did not contest for elections is busy writing letters to KRA trying to correct the debt. I have asked KRA to furnish us with the figures,” he said, referring to Mr Sossion.
The union was also left with a huge debt amounting to millions of shillings, owed to several lawyers who had been contracted for the numerous cases that were pending in court.
“Since last year, auctioneers have taken away furniture at Knut headquarters. Some lawyers had even attached the Knut building for auctioning,” he added.
In a letter to KRA, Mr Sossion has disputed that he left a debt of over Sh300 million.
“I find these allegations malicious, spiteful and untrue, designed to taint my image and integrity. If you check your records, KRA unpaid revenue as of June 25 last year is lower than Sh32 million since TSC stopped remitting union dues in July 2019,” he wrote in a February 10 letter.
Mr Sossion has asked KRA to furnish him with authentic records of the unpaid revenue to prepare for his “handover”.
But yesterday, Mr Oyuu dismissed Mr Sossion’s letter, adding that there are “many other debts”.
Mr Oyuu also said the union last week held a meeting with TSC over the review of the 2021-2025 non-monetary CBA.
“It’s our hope that TSC will decide on how much they should set aside to increase teachers’ salaries and how much will be used for the recruitment of new teachers,” Mr Oyuu said