Teachers will meet with their employer this week for talks on career progression guidelines and discuss possibilities of a pay rise deal.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general Collins Oyuu said the union and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will retreat to Naivasha to discuss an Education committee report and teachers’ professional development training, among other issues affecting members.
Mr Oyuu said the meeting will start on Tuesday evening and end on Friday. He said they are hoping to restart discussions on the review of the 2021-25 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that did not give teachers a pay increase. In the CBA, they increased maternity days for female teachers from 90 to 120.
The CBA also allows male teachers to go on paternity leave and allows promotion of teachers in arid and semi-arid areas. This left other teachers without a pay increase for five years from 2021 to 2025. Mr Oyuu said they have recruited 100,000 new members in one year since his team took over, increasing membership to 115,000, up from the 15,000 he found at the time of his election on June 26 last year.
The number was down from the 187,000 Knut had a few years ago. “When I came in as secretary general, Knut was facing many challenges ranging from low membership, financial starvation, to a bad blood that had been created and existed with the TSC,” he told Sunday Nation.
Currently, Mr Oyuu said, all Knut’s 110 branches are fully functional, all employees are receiving their salaries without fail, staff medical cover has been restored and the union is progressively paying the arrears it had accumulated over two years before he took over.
Due to the financial crisis the union had, several branch offices had been closed, and office equipment such as chairs, desks and computers auctioned. A union bus was auctioned in one branch. The head office was also subject to auction, with some furniture taken away over debt.
“Every month we are paying up to Sh14 million to repay the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), pensions and other arrears owed by the union.”
The new leadership had revealed that at the time of taking over, the union owed KRA over Sh301 million. It also owed millions to other creditors. He said currently, all retirees from the union have received their pensions and other debts are being cleared. However, his leadership has not gone without criticism.
A section of teachers has accused Mr Oyuu and other officials of compromising the stand of the union to please the employer. The Kenya National Teachers Pressure Group (KNTPG) says Knut is no longer interested in issues affecting teachers, accusing its officials of ganging up with the TSC to oppress teachers. KNTPG spokesperson Martha Omollo says Knut and other unions are “in bed” with the employer. “We need a union that represents the interests of teachers,” said Ms Omollo.
They accuse Mr Oyuu of signing a non-monetary CBA, and failing to fight punitive transfers that saw teachers in the group transferred to far-flung counties. But Mr Oyuu dismissed the group as unregistered, illegal and lacking the mandate to talk about teachers. “I will not entertain those who resigned and others who lost elections,” he said, adding that the non-monetary part is among the challenges he has faced as Knut expected the TSC to increase salaries.
I have the interest of teachers at heart and seeing teachers receive a salary increase through a well negotiated CBA is among my priorities.”
Mr Oyuu said that although the journey of restoring Knut has not been smooth, creating harmonious industrial relations in the education sector, particularly with the TSC and the Ministry of Education, has been top on his priority list. “Trade unionism is about creating harmony with all the stakeholders. We cannot operate without relating well with the employer and this is what I have been doing so that as I fight for teachers’ rights, the employer is able to listen and invite us to a negotiating table.”
Before he was elected, Knut had become a shell of its former self following the withdrawal of over 172,000 members. The union was also running several court cases challenging the TSC policies affecting teachers. The wrangles resulted in diminished funding blamed on non-remittance of union dues by the TSC.
When he took over, Mr Oyuu withdrew all the cases Knut had against the TSC, signed a demarcation agreement with the employer, allowing the union to only represent teachers in primary schools, and overturned decisions that had caused poor relations with the employer. The demarcation policy was among the issues opposed by his predecessor, ODM-nominated MP Wilson Sossion.