Former Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion has come out gun blazing highly criticizing the disclosed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) signed between the union and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Sossion terms the agreement 'illegal' wondering why union officials had to sign what destroys hardly earned agreement made back in 1968 and in 2015 after a 36-day teachers’ national strike and in which he says since then TSC has been targeting to silence the union.
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However, in order to maintain industrial peace, Sossion says a secure recognition agreement that establishes a framework for industrial relations is needed. A recognition agreement establishes the rules and procedures that the union and the employer must follow during consultations, collective bargaining, and presentation. He says t is in both parties best interests to have a well-drafted agreement that is legally binding.
"The recognition agreement signed between Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and Knut on August 11, 2021, is incompatible and defeats the purpose and basic principles of the agreement. The content of the new agreement dilutes the previous one which dates back to 1968, and which over the decades." Says Sossion who sits as a member of parliamentary committees on Education and Labour.
It was revealed that the signed deal weakens its current bargaining power as compared to its former status. Knut members must be primary school teachers, according to the agreement.
However, the union's membership is drawn from the entire teaching service, according to the Knut constitution and can only be amended by the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC).
In the new agreement, remuneration negotiations will be subject to the mandatory and binding advice of the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) which the lawmaker says is a violation of Article 41 of the Constitution and the SRC Act (2012).
He adds that negotiations must take place between the union and the employer, according to the law and SRC's advice only comes in on remuneration and benefits because teachers are classified as public officers – "teachers are not State officers." He notes.
The agreement, which appears to violate Article 41 of the Constitution and the Labour Relations Act (2007), states that teachers will not use their union positions to advance Knut's interests and aspirations. This amounts to an undue limitation of elected leaders' duties, responsibilities, and powers.
The July 12th agreement's directive to reduce union branches from 110 to 47 is also a flagrant violation of the Knut constitution. He says branches can be dissolved only by branch members in accordance with the Knut constitution.
He says it is pure intimidation of union leaders on unpaid leave to remain bound by the TSC's Code of Regulations for Teachers as stipulated in the agreement.
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The agreement also states that a headteacher or a teacher acting in that capacity may not be a member of the union. This is also a violation of Article 190 of the Code of Regulations for Teachers, which states that “a teacher serving in an administrative capacity may be a member of a trade union provided that such membership does not interfere or in any way conflict with the performance of the teacher's assigned duties.
And in what is seen as a target to limiting teachers' labour rights, the agreement states that there will be no strike until the parties or the CS resolve their differences. Sossion says the recognition agreement and the constitution are sacred statutory instruments of the union and cannot be changed minus the ADC’s approval.
The modifications were made on July 12 during the non-monetary collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between TSC and KNUT. The two did not reveal many details about the agreement; however, the document that leaked indicates that the union may have signed away more than they received.
For example, KNUT agreed that its members could now be promoted in accordance with the Career Progression Guidelines (CPGs), which had previously been the source of contention between the union and the TSC.
In June 2019, the Employment and Labour Relations Court ruled that Knut members should not be subjected to CPGs and instead be promoted in accordance with the teachers' Schemes of Service.
As a result of the ruling, KNUT members were denied promotions and salary increases, resulting in the union's mass exodus in July 2019.
“To standardise the terms and conditions of service and align the grading structure with the job evaluation results of 2016, parties hereby mutually agree to replace the Schemes of Service for Teachers and to formally adopt the provisions of CPGs as per the employer’s Circular No.7 of 2018,” it says.
The TSC-union CBA required the parties to review their long-term recognition agreement and sign a new one that incorporated the changes.
“Parties mutually agree that this agreement revokes the recognition agreement by the parties dated May 15 1968,” it reads the CBA signed on August.
It must be remembered that back in 2019 when the union was headed by Wilson Sossion, the commission had written to Knut threatening to cancel their recognition agreement as the relationship between the two worsened.
Since the agreement was made effective, headteachers officially do not belong to the union, a factor that has reduced its membership. TSC initially wanted to lock out about 80,000 teachers, including deputy headteachers and senior teachers.
Wilson Sossion resigned as Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General citing frustrations from the government.
"I trust that the government of Kenya as I exit will find it necessary to allow union dues to flow to KNUT again,” said in his resignation speech in June.
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