Knut sets branch elections for Jan 4 despite financial woes

Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion

Wilson Sossion, Secretary-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), speaks to journalists at his rural home in Bomet County on November 22, 2020.

Photo credit: Vitalis Kimutai | Nation Media Group

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) will conduct its branch elections starting January 4.

Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said the polls, which will culminate in the election of national officials, will proceed despite financial challenges.

The challenges arose from being starved of funds by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), Mr Sossion said, accusing the commission of arm-twisting top union leaders and branch officials in a bid to remove him from office.

“We are aware that TSC top guns have been inciting union officials in a divide and rule tactic, with a view to ousting me from office in the pretext that once that this is done, funds which have been withheld will be released to Knut,” he claimed.

This year, the funds remitted to the once-giant union have been decreasing every month.

In January, the union received Sh75 million, in February Sh67 million, in March Sh66 million, in April Sh64 million, in May Sh62 million and in June Sh59 million.

In July, the union received Sh54 million, in August Sh34 million and in September Sh32 million.

Commissioner

Mr Sossion said there are plans to remodel the union through the proposed constitutional changes under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) so that teachers are properly represented.

The union wants a commissioner of teachers in the TSC as in the case with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

“The architecture of the TSC must be revisited. The minimum we will ask for is to have teachers appoint their own commissioner to represent them. This will be done through the BBI process due to the adamant disregard for the law by the current commissioners,” said Mr Sossion.

“Just like the proposals to have political parties nominate commissioners to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), teachers must also have the opportunity to appoint a qualified Kenyan to represent them. [This person] does not have to be a unionist," he added.

The official further accused the commission of illegally suspending a negotiated, valid and legally signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for 2017-2021, which he noted has resulted in lack of promotions and salary increments.

“We signed a CBA which cannot be withdrawn. We have a certificate but the TSC suspended the document unilaterally,” he said.

“The employer has brewed bad blood between us and the government after going to the Court of Appeal and [failing]. We have no issue with the government but the employer (TSC),.”

Strike warning

Speaking to journalists at his rural home in Bomet County on Sunday, Mr Sossion also claimed the TSC has deregistered its members without any letters from them.

The unionist claimed the commission interfered with the check-off system, reducing the number of members from 187,000 to 34,000, resulting in a decline in the amount of dues remitted from Sh144 million to Sh25 million.

He warned of industrial action if the sticky issues are not resolved in the next three weeks.

“We have given the clearest warning in advance - that they will not find teachers ready to teach with these issue outstanding. We will organise an industrial action from January 4. This is our constitutional right,” he said.

He added, “If we allow messes in the education sector in Kenya, what do you expect of teachers in Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan and other regions? Stifling the rights of teachers in Kenya would reflect badly internationally. We cannot allow that to happen.”

Mr Sossion has communicated the issues in writing to Education International Secretary-General David Edwards, the TSC and Cabinet Secretaries George Magoha (Education), Ukur Yatani (Treasury), Fred Matiangi (Interior) and Simon Chelugui (Labour).

vkimutai@ke.nationmedia.com

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