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JSS teachers call off strike, sign deal with TSC

Junior Secondary School teachers have signed a return to work formula, bringing to an end their three-weeks long strike.

The JSS teachers had downed their tools demanding their employment on permanent and pensionable terms.

Following the agreement, Kuppet said, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) will hire the teachers on permanent terms in the next financial year.

The truce brokered by the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) will see the teachers resume teaching on Monday, June 3.

As a mediator, KUPPET Secretary General Akello Misori said the union and the teachers’ employer agreed to have all the show-cause letters issued to the striking teachers withdrawn.

The union explained that the JSS teachers had no union and therefore could not “do collective bargaining”.

“Punishing the teachers for participating in legitimate labour action would be counterproductive to the stability in the sector,” Mr Misori said.

Kuppet will “lobby Parliament for the provision of Sh8.3 billion for the conversion of 26,000 intern teachers to permanent and pensionable terms in July this year,” explained Mr Misori. “The Sh8.3 billion should cater for all intern teachers hired in January 2023.”

Further, the union demanded that the Sh4.68 billion earmarked for new recruitment should be used “strictly” for permanent and pensionable employment, with further funds to be provided to convert the second cohort of teachers hired in September 2023 to permanent terms.

A silent battle has been raging between the two main teachers’ unions – Kuppet and Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) – in a bid to entice the JSS teachers to their respective unions and increase their membership.

The 39,550 teachers deployed to JSS would boost the membership of any union alongside the monthly union dues that members contribute.

The Kuppet-brokered deal could give the union an upper deal.

Interim officials of the JSS teachers’ lobby told Sunday Nation that they had been approached by both Knut and the Kuppet to join their ranks once their clamour for permanent employment by the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) succeeds.

Knut mainly draws its membership among primary school teachers while Kuppet has membership from post-secondary institutions. In total, there are 219,727 teachers in primary schools and 125,563 in secondary schools.

Membership to a union is voluntary and not all teachers have subscribed as members. Apart from dues that members pay, non-member teachers who benefit from deals negotiated by the unions pay them agency fees monthly.

Officials of the JSS lobby said that the JSS teachers will not join either of the unions but will instead form their own union. The lobby has been mobilising their colleagues to go on strike and demand permanent.

The National Assembly Committee on Education chairperson Julius Melly had earlier announced that Sh8.3 billion had been allocated to the TSC to employ on permanent and pensionable terms the 26,000 teachers who are currently on contract. That left out 20,000 others.

Mr Melly told the Budget and Appropriations Committee (BAC) that the TSC would employ the interns in July and not January next year.

“Beginning the next financial year, the Teachers Service Commission should streamline the recruitment process to ensure that resources assigned to this function is fully utilised,” Mr Melly said in submissions to the Budget and Appropriations Commission (BAC) on the budget for the Ministry of Education for the financial year 2024/25.

“Further, the commission should convert the 26,000 interns to permanent employment beginning July 2024 and not January 2025 as proposed.”

Further, the committee wanted the TSC to within six months evaluate the staff norms requirements for all institutions of basic learning for primary, junior and senior school in order to assess the optimal number of teachers required to guide future resource allocation for recruitment of teachers as well as their deployment.

Mr Melly who appeared before the BAC chaired by Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro that the TSC will require Sh8.3 billion for conversion of the 26,000 interns to permanent and pensionable terms from July 1, 2023.

The Tinderet MP said the Ministry would require an additional Sh4.68 billion to recruit additional 20,000 intern teachers in the financial year starting July 1, 2024.

From the legislature to the judiciary, the battle for their employment on permanent and pensionable terms saw different twists turns.

Saturday, Kuppet said it fully supported the teachers’ demand for employment on permanent and pensionable terms in accordance with the judgment by the Employment and Labour Relations Court (ELCR).

The court held that the teachers’ internship employment terms were illegal and unconstitutional, since the TSC’s only power was to hire teachers on permanent and pensionable terms.

Last week, Knut’s leadership expressed readiness to mediate between the troubled teachers and the TSC to resolve the standoff.

Knut’s Secretary General Collins Oyuu, accompanied by other officials, demanded that TSC retract “show cause” letters sent to 7,357 teachers who had not returned to work since schools reopened.

“We demand that the Teachers Service Commission recall all showcause letters served to demonstrating intern teachers and develop a framework that would assist to amicably settle the dispute with interns. No teachers involved in the said demonstration should be victimized,” Mr Oyuu said.

 

Additional reporting by David Muchunguh.

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