The industrial court last evening blocked the strike called by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that would have kicked off this morning, tentatively assuring pupils and parents that schools would reopen today as scheduled.
Knut had threatened to commence a national teachers’ strike today over contested transfers of 3,000 head teachers, promotions, performance contracting system and teachers professional development modules.
The court also turned down Knut’s request to have schools reopened on January 7 and ordered teachers to resume work immediately as conciliation talks between the union and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) continue.
But it was also a victory for Knut after Justice Bryam Ongaya of the Employment and Labour Relations Court stopped the transfer of union officials from areas they had been elected in.
TSC was barred from effecting teacher transfers pending a ruling on the matter on February 15. It had asked the court to compel Knut to call off the strike, saying it was “ready and willing” to reverse controversial transfers on a case-by-case basis.
The case will be mentioned on January 17 when the parties are expected to report to court on the progress of the conciliation talks, which the court ordered to begin yesterday.
Knut and TSC had moved to court seeking a ruling on the legality of the industrial action.
Justice Ongaya also told TSC to consider appeals by headteachers whom it had transferred.
Earlier, the Ministry of Education and TSC had maintained a hardline stance over demands by the teachers’ union and vowed to absorb unemployed teachers from its database should Knut members down tools.
The government said it would do everything possible to ensure learning continues uninterrupted despite the teachers’ strike threat.
Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed affirmed the government’s commitment to ensure schools re-open for first term today while Form One students would duly report starting Monday next week as earlier communicated.
She said TSC has on several occasions pronounced itself clearly on the matter and the government is fully behind that decision.
“All parents should ensure they take their children to school on January 3 in readiness for the first term programmes. As I have said, teachers will be available to attend to all learners,” TSC chairperson Lydia Nzomo said at a press conference.
At the same time, TSC pledged to fully participate and support any efforts to resolve the current dispute including the ongoing conciliation process.
Nzomo dispelled earlier claims by Knut secretary general Wilson Sossion, who had accused the commission CEO Nancy Macharia of failing to attend a conciliation meeting that was supposed to take place on Tuesday, saying the commission has never shied away from using every effort to unlock the stalemate.
The union has accused TSC of “imposing standards that are globally not recognised in the teaching service without consulting it”.
Explaining the genesis of the current stalemate, Nzomo said that mid last year the commission engaged Knut during a five-day retreat to address issues related to the implementation of the 2017-2021 CBA but the meeting ended in disarray after the union issued demands TSC could not accede to, saying they lacked basis in law.
Specifically, TSC said Knut demanded the revocation of 85 cases of transfer of teachers who hold elective positions in the union. It also demanded that Knut officials be exempted from any future transfers.
Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani last stepped in, calling for conciliation and tasked Charles Maranga to lead the committee as provided for by the Labour Act 2007, even as he urged Knut to suspend its intended industrial action to give the conciliation process and dialogue a chance.
Knut had earlier written to Yattani, informing him of its intention to call a strike over unresolved industrial disputes with TSC
Knut had said in its letter that their attempts to hold talks with TSC over teachers’ grievances had hit a snag hence the issuance of the strike notice.
The teachers’ union boss has urged teachers transferred not to report to new work stations today, even as he accused TSC of acting in bad faith for failing a conciliation meeting scheduled earlier in this week.
The TSC had in December announced it had transferred 3,094 teacher, a move the union termed illegal, saying it amounted to abuse of office and allegedly in defiance of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive on the same.