In Summary
  • The union survives on a monthly two per cent deduction from each teacher and, for the period up to about 2016, it has been receiving an average of Sh140 million monthly.
  • With reduced membership and the withholding of union dues by the TSC for the last two months, the union is severely incapacitated.
  • All issues, Mr Sossion said, will be resolved on December 1 during the Annual Delegates Conference to be held in Kakamega.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) headquarters was Friday the scene of unprecedented chaos as top officials tried to kick out their boss in defiance of a court order.

Police lobbed tear gas in the air to disperse the officials who tried to force their way into Knut offices on Mfangano Street in Nairobi hoping to pass a resolution to replace Secretary-General Wilson Sossion with his deputy Hezbon Otieno.

It was strange territory for the 62-year-old union, whose trademark has been unrelenting unity in the face of frequent battles with the Teachers Service Commission and commanding unwavering support from its 200,000 members.

The officials of the National Executive Council, most of whom were from Central Kenya and Nairobi, engaged police in running battles as they fought Mr Sossion’s supporters on Mfangano Street. Police arrested four rioters.

Chaos erupted after the NEC officials turned up for a meeting to discuss Mr Sossion, only to find the doors locked.

GLOOMY FUTURE

Mr Sossion ordered the offices shut on Wednesday, ostensibly to allow employees time off to prepare their children for schools reopening next week. He also obtained court orders barring the NEC meeting.

Some of the officials waved placards calling for a shake-up in the union’s leadership and accusing Mr Sossion of pushing his political agenda at the expense of teachers.

They later held a meeting elsewhere and resolved to kick out Mr Sossion and replaced him with Mr Otieno.

Their attempt to have the changes endorsed at the registrar of trade unions failed after officials there refused to adopt the new official, referring to the court order.

The chaos signalled a most ignominious disintegration of one of the country’s oldest and most stable unions.

A senior Education ministry official who spoke anonymously said: “In principle, the union is very important to us because it provides for direct engagement with the teaching fraternity not merely on bread and butter issues, but also on matters of policy. For Knut, I don’t see how it can rise again to what it used to be after this leadership chaos.”

Whether or not the stubborn NEC officials succeed in removing Mr Sossion, merely replacing him with his deputy will only paper over deep divisions within the union.

SALARIES DEBACLE

The union survives on a monthly two per cent deduction from each teacher and, for the period up to about 2016, it has been receiving an average of Sh140 million monthly.

The formation of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) in 1998 left Knut scrambling for membership with the new union, which has steadily been slicing off a chunk off Knut’s edifice year on year.

Matters came to ahead two months ago after the TSC prepared two separate payrolls — one for Knut and the other for Kuppet — following the suspension of the third phase of the first-ever Collective Bargaining Agreement (2017-2021) after a labour dispute.

The TSC went to the Employment and Labour Relations Court in December last year after Knut issued a strike notice to protest the newly-introduced career development guidelines, teacher professional development programmes and the appraisal system.

Justice Byram Ongaya set aside the CPG rules, which guide promotions, ruling that the TSC should carry out the upgrades using the code of regulations for teachers and the relevant schemes of service.

TSC DEFIANCE

The ruling turned out to be a pyrrhic victory for Knut because the TSC suspended the implementation of the CBA for Knut members because the new salaries were based on the career development guidelines.

This set off a wave of defections from Knut to Kuppet, which was not part of the court dispute by teachers eager to enjoy higher salaries.

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