The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) signed a deal with the teachers' employer that largely weakens the lobby's labour rights bargaining power as compared to its former status, the Nation can reveal.
The new deal that repeals the recognition agreement signed with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) on May 15, 1968 will lock out head teachers, limit Knut membership to primary school teachers and reduce branches.
The changes were introduced through the cashless collective bargaining agreement (CBA) the union signed with TSC on July 12.
The two parties did not divulge the finer details of the deal, but documents in our possession show the union might have signed away more than they received.
Knut, for instance, finally agreed that its members could now be promoted in line with the Career Progression Guidelines (CPGs) that have been a bone of contention between the union and the TSC.
The Employment and Labour Relations Court in June 2019 ruled that Knut members should not be subjected to the CPGs but rather be promoted according to the Schemes of Service for Teachers.
This resulted in the members being left out of promotions and CBA benefits, resulting in many of them quitting the union from July 2019.
"To standardise the terms and conditions of service and align the grading structure with the job evaluation results of 2016, parties hereby mutually agree to replace the Schemes of Service for Teachers and to formally adopt the provisions of CPGs as per the employer's Circular No.7 of 2018," it reads.
The CBA required the parties to review their decades-old recognition agreement and sign a new one that introduces the changes.
Not made public
The new document was signed on August 11, and again, this was not made public to the members.
"Parties mutually agree that this agreement revokes the recognition agreement by the parties dated May 15 1968," it reads.
In 2019, TSC had written to Knut threatening to revoke their recognition agreement as relations between the two soured.
The union was then headed by Mr Wilson Sossion, who resigned on the eve of national elections in June.
Since the agreement is already effective, headteachers now officially do not belong to the union, further reducing its membership.
There are about 20,000 headteachers in the country. TSC initially wanted to lock out of membership about 80,000 teachers, including deputy headteachers and senior teachers.
"Parties mutually agree that a headteacher and/or a teacher acting in the position of a headteacher shall not be a member of the union," the document reads.
According to the agreement, Knut will now only represent primary school teachers, in a departure from the past when any teacher could join the union.
Its constitution allows teachers from all cadres to become members.
"Member refers to a primary school teacher who does not fall under the defined constituency of any other union and have successfully subscribed to the union," the agreement reads.
Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu said the new agreement was necessary to protect the union's main constituency, because more teachers' unions have been registered.
"Other unions have ring-fenced their membership. There's even another union that has applied for registration targeting primary school teachers. Suppose that union is registered, where will that leave us? We'll be finished," he told the Nation.
Other unions include the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet), which draws most of its membership from secondary schools, and the Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers.
On Tuesday, the National Education Union wrote to the Registrar of Trade Unions seeking registration.
The application was filed by Salim Omar and Company Advocates on behalf of two teachers, Mr Peter Omwanza Bosire and Mr David Kioko Musembei.
The new union will seek to recruit teachers from all levels of the teaching service and from both private and public schools.
The new TSC-Knut agreement also states that the union's branches will be collapsed from 110 to 47.
However, this will take effect on July 1, 2026. Mr Oyuu said the reduction of branches aims at improving Knut management and services, saying some branches like Kuria East have less than 400 members.
He added that negotiations with TSC took three weeks and claimed that the proposal to reduce branches has been there since 2011. He added that the National Executive Committee of the union had ratified the changes.
Knut has seen its membership reduce from 187,000 who used to earn it Sh144 million monthly in union dues, to a paltry 15,000 contributing Sh11 million.
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Mr Oyuu claimed that over 10,000 teachers have logged in to join the union since he was elected in June.
He said teachers "are running away from paying agency fees", which are deducted from non-union members who benefit from deals struck by the union.
Such teachers do not, however, receive services from the union such as representation during disciplinary hearings.
One branch executive secretary who sought anonymity said that the union officials signed the documents to hasten processing of teachers' deduction because the union is broke.
Officials and other staff have gone without salaries since July 2019 when TSC effected the punitive measures against it.
"Our leaders were negotiating under very unfavourable conditions and from a position of disadvantage. It was a 'take it or leave it' kind of scenario," he said.
Kuppet-Secretary General Akello Misori told the Nation that the union did not sign a new recognition agreement with TSC.
"Agreements are subject to review but so far, we don't have issues that require review," he said.
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