Education International calls upon Kenyan authorities to stop its onslaught on the KNUT
The Education International (EI) Executive Board online meeting on 9th December 2020 made a strong resolution condemning the attacks on KNUT. It called on the Government of Kenya to prevail on the Teachers Service Commission to reverse its anti-union actions against KNUT, to restore KNUT’s membership and desist from discriminating against KNUT members. The Executive Board also reaffirmed Education International’s unequivocal support for KNUT in their fight for the full respect of trade union rights and the interests of their members and declared that the struggle of the KNUT to preserve and defend their trade union is our fight and that of the global trade union movement. (See Resolution here).
In moving the resolution, Education International Vice President, Mugwena Maluleke, who is also General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), expressed the resolve of EI member organisations in Africa to stand with KNUT as they defend their human and trade union rights. “We call on Kenyan authorities to ensure that the Teachers Service Commission respects international labour standards, national legislation and court decisions”, he said.
- The survival of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) is threatened by a systematic assault by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC). The TSC has discriminated against KNUT members, denied coverage of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to members, and deprived the union of member fees. This attack has crippled the capacity of the KNUT to provide services to members and caused considerable hardship for union representatives.
- The KNUT fought to establish the Teachers Service Commission, including calling for its creation in a national strike in 1966 as a national counterpart for negotiations and cooperation on education and teacher professional issues. After action by Parliament, the TSC became operational in July of 1967.
- There were periodic tensions in the past, but the TSC’s destructive campaign against the union escalated in 2019. It included establishing two parallel payrolls in the Public Teaching Service. Under this double payroll system non-KNUT members were paid enhanced salaries and allowances.
- Members have also suffered discrimination on promotions and upgrades through TSC changes made without legislative approval. Such discrimination was not in line with national law, court orders or Kenya’s international treaty obligations under ILO labour standards.
- In May 2019, while KNUT was negotiating with the TSC concerning implementation of the five - year Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed in 2017, the TSC unilaterally suspended the CBA and illegally introduced a digital validation of union members which resulted in a membership loss for KNUT.
- The TSC campaigned to induce teachers to quit KNUT to benefit from the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement. In September 2019, over 86,000 primary and post primary teachers were unlawfully stripped of their KNUT membership. Among those were elected KNUT officials.
- After the massive TSC offensive to decimate KNUT union membership, the TSC sought to revoke a recognition agreement signed in 1968. That action was suspended by a judge, but legal proceedings will continue.
- In the summer of 2020, the Education Committee of Parliament held hearings and, in August, adopted resolutions that were supported by all the education unions. The Committee’s proposal was aimed at reversing several of the measures taken by the TSC and resolving remaining issues through negotiations.
- In the months following the action of Parliament, KNUT has had productive discussions with the Education Committee of Parliament as well as with the Ministry of Labour. However, the TSC campaign has continued. It has ignored the action of Parliament as well as national laws and regulations.
Welcoming the decision of the Executive Board, Education International Africa Regional Committee Chairperson, Dr Christian Addai-Poku, said that KNUT is a pillar of the strength of the trade union movement in Africa.
“Any attempt to kill KNUT will set a precedence that will threaten the trade union movement in Africa. We strongly condemn the actions of the Kenya TSC and stand with our brothers and sisters in KNUT who with our solidarity will come out of this much stronger.”
EI Africa Chief Regional Coordinator, Dr Dennis Sinyolo urged the Government of Kenya and TSC to restore the 2017-2021 collective bargaining agreement, ensure that KNUT members are not discriminated against and engage in serious and genuine dialogue with KNUT.