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November 15, 2018

Teachers face sack over strike

Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi with TSC Chaiperson Lydia Nzomo during a press conference at Teachers Service Commission Headquarters. Photo/PATRICK VIDIJA
Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi with TSC Chaiperson Lydia Nzomo during a press conference at Teachers Service Commission Headquarters. Photo/PATRICK VIDIJA

THE government has made a bold decision – to sack all the strike teachers after they defied orders to resume work.

A highly placed source in the government has told the Star that the decision to hire 70,000 relief teachers was the first phase of the strategy that would see new teachers hired in the next three months.

However, the plan faced its first hurdle yesterday, after the Employment Court temporarily halted the recruitment until a case filed by a trade union congress is heard and determined.

Justice Nduma Nderi issued the order on condition that teachers' unions comply with Justice Nelson Abuodha’s order to suspend the strike for the next 90 days, resume work and start negotiations on the dispute that has crippled learning in public schools for the last four weeks.

Nderi certified the matter as urgent after the Trade Union Congress of Kenya moved to court, arguing that the TSC's decision to recruit other teachers is meant to mitigate the prevailing impasse between the teachers and their employer.

The TSC on Thursday advertised for 70,000 teachers' positions to be filled by October 5.

TUC-K, through its lawyer Wilfred Nyamu, says in its application that hiring teachers on a temporary basis is contrary to known practices.

He says the TSC has for the first time sought to engage teachers on a temporary basis, which is contrary to existing policy.

Nyamu said the TSC had disregarded earlier court directions to negotiate with the teachers and instead advertised for the recruitment of new teachers.

But the Star has learnt that the decision to send away the more than a quarter-million teachers was arrived at a high-level consultative meeting involving the ministry of Education, the Attorney General's Office and the Office of the President.

The government argues that the teachers’ national strike has become “cancerous” and it is time to deal with this problem “once and for all to end this infamy”, according to the source.

During the meeting, options to devolve the problem of teachers’ welfare to the counties were explored. “There was a debate on whether the counties should be mandated to hire and fire teachers, but there was no agreement,” the source said.

The idea is to weaken both Knut and Kuppet and reduce their bargaining capacity by scattering the teachers “to the four winds”.

“The TSC has not addressed the demands of the teachers or engaged with the teachers' unions or taken any steps towards compliance with the orders as envisaged in the court’s directions and, for that reason, the teachers have remained away from school,” our source says.

Nyamu says the decision by the TSC to engage in the recruitment of relief teachers is a violation of the teachers’ fundamental rights to go on strike and to reasonable working conditions. It also breaches the right to fair labour practices and to participate in the activities and programmes of their trade union.

But our source said the government has concluded that sacking the teachers is the only way to finally bring to an end the “culture of strikes” that has dogged the teaching fraternity for about two decades.

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