What you need to know:
- There was drama in Mombasa, Kisumu, Kisii, Vihiga, Homa Bay, Nyamira and Busia where some teachers allied to the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) said they had defected to Knut, a day after Kuppet officials called off their strike
- Chairman Wilson Sossion had described the meeting chaired by Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi as “nothing”
- A source at the talks, who asked not to be named, said they had narrowed down to the immediate increase of teachers’ house allowance while the other three would be implemented progressively
Talks to end the teachers strike now in its second week ended without an agreement on Wednesday.
Union and government representatives had been holding marathon talks to end the stalemate over the ongoing strike called to press for higher allowances.
But on Wednesday evening, Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi said the talks had failed to bear fruit.
Earlier in the day, there was drama in Mombasa, Kisumu, Kisii, Vihiga, Homa Bay, Nyamira and Busia where some teachers allied to the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) said they had defected to Knut, a day after Kuppet officials called off their strike.
Kuppet has been pushing for the allowances of its members to be harmonised with those of other civil servants. Knut is pushing for the implementation of a 1997 agreement to increase their house, responsibility and medical allowances.
The union has defied Tuesday’s court order requiring its members to return to class as the union hammers out a deal with the government.
An indication of the sensitivity of the talks held in Nairobi came when the two sides — Knut and Labour ministry officials — left for what they described separately as consultations.
At one stage, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) protested the presence of officials from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) at the talks held at the Ministry of Labour headquarters at NSSF Building in Nairobi.
The commission is mandated by the Constitution to set and review salaries for government officials but Knut has in the past argued that a clause in the Constitution allows workers to directly negotiate with their employer. Teachers are hired by the Teacher’s Service Commission, an independent entity.
Placed on the table
This prompted the officials to temporarily leave the meeting. The SRC has insisted that the demands by teachers must be fiscally sustainable. Meeting the teachers’ demands would cost taxpayers Sh47 billion.
The talks were briefly stopped around noon when Knut officials left to consult on an offer that the government had placed on the table.
Soon after they returned, Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi also left for consultation at State House, Nairobi.
“Give us more time,” he told journalists camped outside the boardroom where the talks were ongoing.
According to Labour official Tom Namasanga, both parties had ceded ground “to vacate Legal Notices 534 of 1997 and 16 of 2003 which have been at the centre of the controversy”.
Knut had at some point Wednesday evening declared a stalemate in the negotiations but its representatives later returned to the negotiating table.
Chairman Wilson Sossion had described the meeting chaired by Mr Kambi as “nothing”.
However, it emerged later that a proposal to increase house allowances and act progressively on the other three — commuter, medical and responsibility allowances — had been arrived at.
The negotiators were also said to have agreed to revoke both legal notices 534 of 1997 and 16 of 2003 and start fresh negotiations. The legal notices have been at the centre of the protracted tussle between the government and Knut, a disagreement that led the teachers’ union to call the strike last week.
A source at the talks, who asked not to be named, said they had narrowed down to the immediate increase of teachers’ house allowance while the other three would be implemented progressively.
It was not clear how much it will take to implement the house allowances, which the union wanted pegged at 50 per cent of a teachers’ basic salary and whether the demand had been accepted by the Labour ministry.
Mr Kambi said the government presented five scenarios to upgrade teachers’ perks and employ more teachers immediately.
Meanwhile, in various towns, hundreds of teachers affiliated to Kuppet said they had defected to Knut, accusing their trade union of being a sell-out.
The defectors addressed separate press conferences during which they announced the move, saying, Kuppet was not effective in championing for their rights.
They were angered by Kuppet’s Tuesday move to call off the strike.
In Busia, the defectors led by Mr Paul Oduori and Mr Bismak Missati, said they were disappointed by Kuppet’s decision to call off its strike without a return to work formula.
In Migori, secondary school teachers filled Knut membership forms and accused Kuppet of being a puppet of the Jubilee administration.
The teachers who were received by the Migori Knut executive secretary, Mr Charles Katege, vowed to continue with their strike.
The Kisumu East branch secretary, Mr Joseph Mang’uro said he received requests from various Kuppet members to allow them to join Knut because they did not get what they were demanding for through their union.
The Knut Mombasa office was a beehive of activity with former Kuppet members handing in their defection letters on the one hand and Knut Coast members chanting slogans in support of their boycott.
They later burned an effigy of the Kuppet Coast branch officials and openly read their defection notices.
The defectors accused Mr Milemba of being selfish and not having teachers’ interests at heart.
We have come back
“I am happy to be back. Colleagues, I started Kuppet in Mombasa and I am here to dissolve this Kuppet,” said Mr Charles Ondieki while handing over letters of his defection to Knut Coast National Executive Member Dan Aloo.
“We are very sad that Mr Milemba has betrayed teachers of Mombasa and teachers of this country. We are here to represent Kuppet Mombasa branch and tell you that we have come back home. Mombasa Kuppet is dead!”
He said that the secretary-general did not consult the Kuppet members before calling off the strike.
“Suspending the strike without a return-to-work formula puts teachers in a precarious position because they can be victimised,” he said.
Meanwhile, Knut’s former acting secretary-general Xavier Nyamu has now been retired.
Mr Nyamu, who acted briefly after the death of the union’s former secretary-general David Okutta, left office last week to proceed on pre-retirement leave.
He briefly participated in planning the ongoing teachers’ strike, but exited after being retired by the union to pave way for his deputy, Mr Mudzo Nzili, who has now taken charge.
Mr Nzili has now joined the Knut chairman Mr Sossion in leading the over 230,000 teachers in the ongoing national strike.
Additional reporting by Isaac Ongiri, Moses Odhiambo and Rebecca Okwany