Review teachers' terms

Teachers unions have begun talks with Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to renegotiate the 2021-24 collective bargaining agreement (CBA). This is a welcome development where unions sit with the employer to negotiate in a non-volatile environment.

The unions showed great patriotism by agreeing to a CBA that didn’t give their members a pay raise as the economy had been battered by Covid-19.

The employer needs to reciprocate that goodwill now that the situation is better.

But the parties must have the welfare of learners at heart. Education is a constitutional right and any disruption of educational programmes originating from disagreements at the talks should not be allowed. The current state and also projections of the economy should dictate the resultant agreement.

Apart from the talks over better pay, the parties should come up with a solution for promotion of teachers who have stagnated in one job group for years. Career progression is every worker’s dream and it is unjust to stall the teachers’ careers.

The unions must also agitate for better pay for the thousands of contracted teachers the TSC refers to as interns, although they aren’t unionisable. These are qualified professionals and should be commensurately remunerated.

Paying the interns for primary and secondary school Sh15,000 and Sh20,000, respectively, borders on abuse of labour. The amount is only slightly above the minimum wage for unskilled labour.

The unions have been opposed to modern human resource practices like training, continuous improvement and performance appraisals. They must embrace them as best practice and also to upskill their members.

That way, the government will also be assured of getting value for money and not paying deadwood. With the ongoing curriculum reforms, that is not an option but compulsory to achieve the intended outcomes.