A cornered Knut fights back, issues strike threat

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By Standard Team

Stung by a Government onslaught to clip its wings, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) has come out fighting. And they are not mincing their words: We dare you to touch our members and we will call another strike.

The union was reacting to the Teachers Service Commission’s (TSC) order to teachers in management positions to quit Knut and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) as exclusively reported by ‘The Standard’ on Friday.

Knut said it would call members out in another strike if the Government goes ahead with the move to force 100,000 teachers out of the union.

Knut, whose members were on strike three weeks ago, said it would not allow TSC to make head teachers, their deputies, heads of department and senior teachers to leave the union.

Yesterday, Knut Secretary-General Lawrence Majali said: “The union will fight back using every means available, including another strike action, if it becomes necessary to stop TSC from victimising innocent teachers without justifiable reason.”

On Friday, we exclusively reported that the Government was out to whittle down Knut’s influence on its more than 200,000 members.

The move that could pull out more than 100,000 cream of Knut members would slice by half the union’s monthly earnings of Sh60 million from teachers.

The Government, through the TSC, has written to an estimated 105,000 members of Knut in the management category and a fewer number from Kuppet — 8,000 — telling them to leave the union or face disciplinary action.

The directive, issued by TSC Secretary and CEO Gabriel Lengoiboni came soon after the employer refused to remit January union dues to Knut.

“The TSC cannot decide for teachers which union to belong to. They chose to join Knut and they should not be intimidated because of taking part in the recent industrial action,” Mr Majali thundered.

Addressing a Press conference in Nairobi, Majali, who was with union National Chairman George Wesonga and Treasurer Fred Ontere, produced past memoranda in which the heads were allowed to seek offices in Knut.

He demanded the circular, which was sent out a week ago, be withdrawn or the union calls a strike. Majali said Knut was aware some head teachers had written to the TSC to exempt them from union activities.

When contacted, Education Minister Sam Ongeri said: “As far as I know, the heads associations have requested TSC to intervene and have them exempted from being members of trade unions and that is most likely the basis of TSC’s action. However, TSC is in a better position to shed more light on the matter.”

And on another front, Knut faces a growing challenge by rival Kuppet, which has been presenting forms to TSC from teachers who want to cross over from Knut.

Majali had earlier been quoted saying: “That is rumour. The 200 people we saw last week were gathered to create an impression that teachers were moving out of Knut.”

But Kuppet Secretary-General Njeru Kanyamba said the union is pursuing recognition and registration of members by the TSC, and has submitted 18,000 applications from new members.

Meanwhile, six Knut branch officials from the South Rift have reacted angrily to Government attempts to cripple the union.

Mr Paul Bii (Bomet), Mr Mathias Lang’at (Sotik), Mr Daniel Chumo (Bureti), Mr Stanley Mutai (Kericho), Mr Joseph Kitur (Trans Mara) and Mr David Bore (Kipkelion) said Prof Ongeri was to blame for the woes facing the union.

— By Sam Otieno, Beauttah Omanga and Vitalis Kimutai

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