By: MARYANNE GICOBI
Teachers Wednesday abandoned the court battle for a 50-60 per cent pay rise and will now start a new round of salary negotiations.
Their union’s top decision making organ met for four hours and endorsed an agreement reached with President Uhuru Kenyatta last week.
According to that agreement, teachers will be paid their September salaries, all parties will withdraw court cases and a new four-year collective bargaining agreement will be reached within a month.
The Teachers Service Commission, which had crippled the unions by refusing to collect union dues from members on behalf of Kenya National Union of Teachers, is also required to release the September and October cash.
Union officials will meet the Teachers Service Commission on Wednesday to start negotiations for a new salary deal.
Secretary-general Wilson Sossion, who did not attend the State House meeting and appeared hostile to the agreement, finally endorsed it, promising to arrive at Wednesday’s meeting “30 minutes ahead of schedule”.
He later announced in a tweet: “We urge our members to support all our decisions, some of which we cannot share with the media.”
Addressing journalists at Knut headquarters in Nairobi after the National Executive Council meeting, Mr Sossion said he welcomed the President’s move to solve the pay dispute, adding that it will help end the perennial teachers’ strikes.
Mr Sossion did not attend the State House talks, saying he had not been invited and promised to push the 50-60 deal at the Supreme Court.
The award had been granted by the Industrial Court but taken away by the Court of Appeal.
The union’s lawyer, Mr Paul Muite, had indicated to the court that the union would be moving to the Supreme Court.
“The fact that I did not attend the State House meeting does not mean there is war at Knut, it was a matter of ideological differences and we are allowed to have divergent thinking, and everything we did was towards the interest of teachers, nothing was selfish or personal,” Mr Sossion said on Wednesday.
Of the 288,000 teachers, only 42,973, most of them school heads, their deputies and heads of departments, were paid their September salaries as they did not take part in the strike and are not members of unions.
The other teachers stayed out of class for 33 days, most of them in September, as union leaders shuttled from one court to another seeking implementation of the pay increase awarded by Judge Nelson Abuodha.
Last Tuesday, Mr Mudzo Nzili, the Knut chairman, led union leaders to the meeting with the President, which was also attended by Deputy President William Ruto, Teachers Service Commission and Ministry of Education officials.
“We are happy that the President saw it fit to personally intervene. The issue of teachers striking should come to a complete end, we will start the talks with the commission on Wednesday,” Mr Sossion told journalists.
Teachers have taken to the streets five times since the major labour dispute of 1997.
The unions have been running on a shoestring budget since teachers’ commission stopped paying union fees deducted from teachers.
“We are asking the commission that by the time we step into that meeting on Wednesday, they will have wired the teachers’ September salaries and our October and September union dues,” said Mr Sossion.
Their rival union, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, will also be in attendance.
Speaking to the Nation by phone, Kuppet Chairman Omboko Milemba said: “We have agreed to the invite and we will go without fear to negotiate and hear what they have on the table following the directive by the President.”
Kuppet on Wednesday convened a National Governing Council meeting to discuss the State House deal and resolved to endorse the agreement save for the role of the Salaries Remuneration Commission in the negotiations.
The State House deal required that salaries team be involved in the negotiations.
Kuppet is moving to court over the salaries team clause and their advocate has already filed a notice of plea with the Supreme Court to challenge the position that mandates commission to control negotiation, as this undermines the unions.
Mr Sossion said he was upbeat that the negotiations would enable them get the first ever Collective Bargaining Agreement for teachers.
SOURCE: DAILY NATION