Teachers to resume duty on Monday, court to arbitrate on pay dispute

NAIROBI: The eight-day strike that shutdown learning in public schools has ended after the Industrial Court took over the pay negotiations and ordered teachers to return to class from Monday next week.

The teachers’ unions did not get the increase in basic salary for their over288,000 members, they were demanding after the Teachers Service Commission TSC) refused to budge.

 The announcement followed a nine-hour discussion presided over by Justice Nduma Nderi and involving the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut),Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers(Kuppet), TSC, Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC)and the Ministry of Labour.

Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion Wednesday asked teachers to resume classes on Monday and await the court’s arbitration.

Justice Nderi reached the compromise decision after the Government and unions failed to break the deadlock that arose after the State rejected an increment on basic salary, and instead offered Sh9.3 billion in allowances that unions spurned.

It will now be up to the Industrial Court to determine how much the over 288,000 teachers will take home as increment on their basic pay.

But it is not clear whether the Sh9.3 billion allowances the Government offered them will still be on the table although all parties backed the directive to call off the strike.

The proceedings were held behind closed doors before Justice Nderi delivered his ruling.

In his ruling, Justice Nderi directed that no teacher or union official should be victimised for the just-ended strike.

“After day-long deliberations, the parties have agreed to have the economic dispute handled by the Industrial Court. It is the court’s direction that TSC should not victimise any teacher or union official for participating in the strike. All teachers should therefore resume duty on Monday, pending the hearing and determination of the dispute,” Justice Nderi ruled

He directed Knut and Kuppet to file before the court their submissions in a common memorandum by Monday while TSC was given up to January 26 to file its response.

SRC was directed to file its submissions on the matter 10 days after TSC files its response.

This means that the fate of teachers’ salary demand shall be known sometime next month.

Justice Nderi told Knut and Kuppet to call off the strike to give the court time to adjudicate the matter, saying TSC should not withhold salaries of teachers.

 Sossion and Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori lauded the court for agreeing to take over the decade-long dispute.

“This is an historic day for us as a union for the Judiciary to take over the salary dispute. It is going to mark the end of the confusion and pave way for a clear picture of the teachers’ demands. We are confident that in this process, the court’s adjudication will help solve the dispute where the employer has failed on several occasions,” Sossion said.

“We have agreed to table all the proposals by the National Advisory Council and we shall be meeting on Friday to chart the way forward,” he added.

“I urge teachers to be patient and give the Industrial Court time to deliberate over the matter. We are optimistic that the outcome will be in the best interest of teachers since we cannot be perennial strikers for ever,” Misori said.

Sossion termed the court session as “tough and good for us but rough on TSC”.

“We have submitted to the court since we are law-abiding citizens and this is because we have confidence that the court will find a lasting solution to what has over the years been a tug of war between the union and the teachers’ employer,” said Sossion.

He said two options were presented to resolve the strike stalemate.

“The judge asked TSC to table a salary offer or go back to the negotiation table failure to which the court shall adjudicate,” said Sossion.

He said TSC opted for 90 days to conclude negotiations.

“We chose that the court take over because we had been talking with them for so long, but it never yielded anything,” said Sossion.

Misori said the Industrial Court Act and Labour Relations rules affirm that no talks of this nature can proceed without cessation of the strike.

“At this point the TSC, Knut and Kuppet consented to call off strike so that the court takes over,” he said.

 Details from the court revealed that Justice Nderi arrived at the decision to take over the matter after the Government failed to table any offer on a basic salary increase.

Sources at the meeting said that the two teachers’ unions insisted on the 50 to 60 per cent salary offer made by the TSC last year.

Knut and Kuppet officials said the offer by the Government prompted them to lower their demand by half, from 300 per cent.

“The judge pressed TSC to explain why they made an offer which they later withdrew. He then allowed them to consult and return with an offer, but when they returned, they said they did not have one,” said the source.

Further details also show that TSC had planed to institute contempt proceedings against Sossion.

“The judge declined that. He also set aside the Musau Ndunda case and squarely dealt with the case presented by TSC,” said Sossion.

“The judge was warm but also firm and tough. He was smart,” said Sossion.

In its petition, TSC said that the teachers’ strike is illegal and has paralysed education in public schools.