Labour court Judge Monica Mbaru has ruled that the on-going teachers’ strike is unprotected and directed the Kenya Union of Teachers (Knut) and The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) to respond to their employer’s suit.
This came as Teachers Service Commission (TSC) warned teachers engaged in the work boycott of dire consequences, including losing their jobs and missing their September salaries. Like other public servants, TSC chairperson Lydia Nzomo said teachers should be answerable to their employer as provided for in the Constitution.
Addressing the media yesterday, Nzomo argued that the commission had not received any strike notice from Knut and Kuppet as required under Section 6 of the Labour Relations Act. She said it was misleading and dishonest for the unions to claim a notice to strike issued in December, last year, was still in force.
“This strike is, therefore, outrightly illegal, unjustified and uncalled for and is unprotected,” she said at TSC headquarters yesterday. “No other individual or entity can give teachers directions or instructions on matters relating to attendance and performance of their duty.
Teachers are guided by their code of regulations and those who flout it will face the consequences,” she added. She directed all school heads where learners may not have reported back to class to ensure they are recalled immediately for resumption of learning.
But Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion argued that teachers just resumed the last strike which had procedurally been called on December 28, 2014, and are not obliged to issue any notice to their employer. “If anything, the Labour Relations and Employment Court did not declare the strike illegal as we agreed to set it aside to allow the court process to be continued,” Sossion said, while officially declaring the strike on Wednesday.
But Nzomo, who was accompanied by TSC chief executive officer Nancy Macharia among other commissioners, however, said the right of teachers to strike should not override the right to education for more than 12 million school-going children.
She reiterated that the commission had no surplus funds to pay the 50 to 60 per cent increment as was directed by the court.. “Indeed, the National Treasury has informed the commission that it is not possible to increase salaries at this point in time,” she said.
Knut however wants TSC officials to be jailed for failing to pay teachers as directed by both the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. In an affidavit sworn by Sossion, Knut says there is no remedy in law to enforce the award other than the one which directed that teachers be paid and TSC be punished for not having paid in time.
He also blamed TSC of continuing to make “bold and public statements to the effect that it would not pay.” Lady Justice Monica Mbaru directed Knut to serve TSC with the court documents and all parties to appear before Justice Nduma Nderi on 21 September for further directions.
TSC had earlier filed documents accusing the unions of holding illegal strikes in contravention of Labour laws. This happened as learning in most public schools across the country remained paralysed as teachers held street demonstrations in Mombasa to press the government to pay the 50-60 per cent.
And a section of opposition leaders accused the government of insincerity over the teachers pay row, saying they have misplaced priorities. Cord management committee co-chairs Siaya senator James Orengo and his Machakos counterpart Johnstone Muthama called on the government to pay teachers to avoid disruption of national examinations.