At least 6,000 teachers have rejoined the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) over the last two months, officials have said.
This moved the union’s membership to 18,000 by the end of October. Knut had just 12,000 members in June when the union held its elections.
The union’s secretary-general Collins Oyuu said by Wednesday last week, forms of 3,000 more teachers seeking to rejoin were being processed.
“We have noted a trend where teachers are scrambling to return to the union since the employer reopened the Third Party TPAY portal where teachers can exit or re-join union,” said Oyuu.
He said the portal was opened in July but the processing of members was delayed due to technical issues.
“The Teachers Service Commission told us that they could not process membership because the portal had some issues. But after it was rectified, we saw good enrolment of members,” Oyuu said on Thursday.
Oyuu added: “In the month of November, we have been processing some 3,000 forms, which we shall be completed in a few days. Teachers want their details captured properly so it’s taking a bit of time to process.”
At the time of Knut elections, union officials had hoped that TSC would restore the union register as it were in June 2019. By this time, Knut had 187, 471 members, giving the union some Sh144 million in union dues every month.
However, in July and August of the same year, Knut received zero union dues as the tiff between the union and employer intensified.
The membership further reduced to 110, 000 in October and to 105, 000 in November of that year. By June this year, when Knut held its national elections, the membership had shrunk to 12,000.
TSC has over the years fought off perceptions it was behind the mass exodus of teachers from Knut.
Knut officials, then led by Wilson Sossion, accused TSC of interfering with the union’s register by engaging in activities that reduced membership.
However, in a report to the MPs, TSC chief executive Nancy Macharia explained that teachers left Knut on their own after it emerged that a court ruling on Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) that was being rolled out by the employer denied them new salary benefits.
Dr Macharia said her commission was unable to act against the court ruling.
“When the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed, it introduced a new grading system for teachers known as Career Progression Guidelines (CPG) which replaced the Scheme of Service. But Knut challenged the implementation of CPG in court,” said Dr Macharia.
The effect of the court ruling, Macharia said, meant that all Knut members could not benefit from the third and fourth phase of the multi-billion salary raise and promotions.
“To comply with the resultant court orders, the commission undertook teacher promotion in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Code of Regulation for Teachers (Cort) and the Schemes of Service for all Knut members and CPG for non-members of Knut.
Dr Macharia said the commission acted based on Knut members’ requests to leave the union as per the provisions of Labour Relations Act.
“The commission did not unilaterally remove members from Knut register instead removal of the members is guided by the Labour Relations Act which provides for the removal of a member from the union register,” said Macharia.
She cited Section 48 (6) and (8) of the Act, which says an employer may not make any deductions from an employee who has notified the employer, in writing, that the employee has resigned from the union.
And now under the new CBA, CPGs have formally been adopted as the schemes of service for teachers are phased out.
Macharia dismissed reports that teachers’ unions are at their weakest point, noting that their engagements have changed for the better.
“To say the unions are at their weakest is something new to me. Because I know that we have very vibrant unions and they can speak for themselves,” said Macharia who spoke on Friday last week.
She said all unions engage TSC and negotiations doors are always open.
“And they keep us on our toes. I don’t know if unions are only vibrant when they shout. Actually, a lot can be done with a mature union that keeps an employer on its toes,” said Macharia.
She added: “And when these unions call us for a meeting we prepare very well. It doesn’t just mean when a union shouts that’s when it is at its strongest. We are changing and the world has changed and we now collaborate and so on.”
TSC lawyer Calvin Anyuor said the aim of the movement was to standardise the terms and conditions of service and align the grading structure with job evaluation results of 2016.
“The parties (unions) agreed to replace schemes of service for teachers and to formally adopt the provisions of CPG as per the commissions circular of 2008.
“Henceforth promotions in the teaching service shall be governed by the guidelines,” said Anyuor.