Kenya: It's all-out battle as teachers' pay frozen


Knut secretary-general Lawrence Majali (right) addresses a press conference at the union's headquarters. 

We won't be cowed: Knut fury over TSC strong-arm tactics

The Kenya National Union of Teachers argued that teachers were owed their salaries since they had worked part of the month.

Withdrawing salaries for the teachers is not the issue since teachers had already worked for some days of the month and should be paid, Knut secretary-general Lawrence Majali said.

The union's protest followed an announcement by the Teachers Service Commission that it was withholding the salaries of all primary school teachers, pending a verification of who is working and who is on strike.

Terminated contract

The commission also hinted at mass sacking of striking teachers, warning: Take notice that all teachers who do not resume duty immediately will be deemed to have terminated their contract of service with the Teachers Service Commission.

Perhaps to send a signal to the strikers that their places may be filled, the commission asked unemployed and qualified teachers to register with zonal educational offices closest to them.

Those who retired within the past seven years and are interested to work on contract terms were also asked to register with the education offices.

Unemployed secondary school teachers should give details about their teaching subjects before February 2, said the commission.

But teachers appeared unmoved by the threat. Mr Apollo Odero, 40, a teacher in Kisumu East District said there aren't enough retirees to replace teachers.

Will parents and pupils accept retirees in schools? And how many retirees will be willing to return to service after having worked in the same system? he wondered.

On Monday, the TSC said teachers in secondary schools and colleges, who have not been on strike, will be paid.

Mr Gabriel Lengoiboni, the TSC boss, said the commission was within the law in refusing to pay teachers for the period during which they did not work.

The TSC decision is likely to escalate the confrontation between the government and the teachers, who have defied calls by the Cabinet to call off the strike.

Sacking or eviction

The teachers are demanding Sh19.2 billion in salary increases effective July 1 for one year, but the government has offered Sh17.3 billion payable in three years from the same date.

On Friday, the Industrial Court restrained teachers from participating in the strike until a team appointed by Labour minister John Munyes to renegotiate the salaries completes its work.

The order effectively cleared the way for TSC to take any action, including sacking or eviction of the teachers from school houses.

Knut officials led by secretary-general Lawrence Majali rejected the team appointed by the minister, saying its chairperson could not be relied on to be a neutral arbiter in the conflict.

They also dismissed the announcement to withhold the salaries as empty threats.

But even as it strong-armed teachers and made apparent preparations to sack and replace them, the commission said it was committed to dialogue once the strike is called off.

In response, Mr Majali said: We shall not allow such cheap acts of intimidation and harassment to be meted on our members.

The ministry and the TSC do not own these houses, and therefore cannot order the eviction of teachers. There are laws regulating tenancy and teachers are rent-paying tenants.

As far as we are concerned teachers have not violated any tenancy laws by going on strike and the boards of governors and school management committees should resist misuse by the TSC and the ministry of Education. TSC and the ministry should avoid making a bad situation worse, Mr Majali said.

The Teachers Service Commission has always issued these threats whenever we have a strike. This is normal. Teachers are determined to get their money, so telling them about the withdrawal of salaries and throwing them out of their houses will just annoy them. That is mere provocation, the union boss said.

He said recalling retired and unemployed teachers will not work because they can't effectively replace the striking ones.

He said the union had not received a copy of Friday's court ruling and maintained that the strike will continue.

The teachers went on strike on Monday last week after refusing a government offer to increase their salaries in three phases.

The strike entered its second week yesterday in defiance of the court ruling, a Cabinet proposal to have the increase implemented in 25 months and threats from the Ministry of Education.

The strike has mostly affected the more than 200,000 primary school teachers, who did not benefit from a deal reached between the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers and the TSC a week before the strike began. – Daily Nation

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