How teachers were starved to surrender

By: DANIEL OTIENO

Teachers gave up their fight for better pay when funds to their unions were cut off.

And with their members also broke after failing to get the September salaries, the unions had no option but to surrender.

Saturday Nation has learned that the unions were labouring under increasing debts with landlords threatening to close their offices.

The legal bills for the top-notch lawyers who represented the union in the court battles were also piling up.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) were required to drop all cases in court seeking pay rise in exchange for their September salaries, which were withheld when they were on strike and their unions’ dues that have not been remitted for the past two months.

But a decision by the Teachers Service Commission on Friday to appeal a Labour court order to pay the salaries could lead to a collapse of the deal.

The decision by the Teachers Service Commission to withhold union dues severely disrupted branches.

Knut and Kuppet receive about Sh2 billion annually as membership fee at the rate of two per cent of basic salary.

Knut collects about Sh1.6 billion — that is Sh135 million monthly from 206,000 teachers — while Kuppet, with 34,000 members, collects about Sh35 million a month or about Sh425 million a year.

Knut has about 110 branches across the country, while Kuppet has 47 and they rely on membership fees to run the offices.

Kuppet secretary-general Akelo Misori said the commission denied them union dues to stifle them.

He said: ‘‘Our in-trays are full of invoices and demand letters. We need money to sort bills urgently. Our creditors are giving us hell” .

EVICTION THREATS

They were unable to pay rent for branch offices and pay staff. Some landlords have issued eviction threats.

Kuppet’s Homa Bay branch held a funds-drive last weekend to repay a bank loan for their bus and pay staff.

The unions also engaged a team of top lawyers whose services do not come cheap.

Among them were Paul Muite, Kioko Kilukumi, John Mbaluto and Judith Guserwa.

According to Homa Bay Knut Chairman Eliud Ombori, whatever was arrived at during the National Steering Committee meeting does not imply surrender.

“This is just a tactful retreat. Our resolve is to ensure that teachers get the 50-60 per cent award that was granted by the Labour court,” he said.

The preconditions set by President Kenyatta met resistance from Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion but he has since changed tune, with conditions.

“Teachers are still reeling because they did not receive the September salaries. The union is broke and no one wants to play hard ball especially now that the festive season is here,” he said.

Mr Sossion maintained that although they had agreed to the State House deal, their next course of action would be determined when they get to the negotiation table over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Although Wednesday’s Knut meeting had been tense following differences between Mr Sossion and Chairman Mudzo Nzili over the State House visit, it was resolved.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION