For Knut and its boss Sossion, 2020 is a year to quickly forget - Beaking Kenya News

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Tuesday, 29 December 2020

For Knut and its boss Sossion, 2020 is a year to quickly forget


The year 2020 is undoubtedly the worst year for Kenya’s oldest teachers’ union, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), because it has lost its huge membership and clout.

The union now has only 28,000 members who are paying monthly fees, down from the imposing 187,471 in June 2019 — a loss of 159,471 members. As a result of this substantial loss of finances, the union can now hardly meet its budget.

The tribulations and ruination of the union have been a painful process that its top leadership lays squarely at the doorstep of the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

Knut secretary-general Wilson Sossion maintains that the union has not lost any members, but only the union fees after the teachers were blackmailed by their employer.

This month, Knut received only Sh20 million from TSC as union fees, which Mr Sossion says is way below the union’s monthly operating budget. Last month, it received Sh25 million. Before the relationship between the two soured, the union used to receive Sh144 million monthly.

The loss of the funds has grounded operations in the 110 Knut branches.

“The union has a monthly operating budget of Sh144 million, with a monthly payroll of Sh80 million. The funds we are getting from TSC can barely pay our staff,” said Mr Sossion.

Since last year, Knut’s top leadership and branch executive secretaries have been going without salaries and some offices were closed owing to piling rent arrears. Some of their assets have also been auctioned.

Every month, the TSC has chipped away at the Knut edifice as thousands of teachers clicked on the “Stop Transaction(s)” icon on their portal to opt out of the union, a method Mr Sossion contends is illegal.

According to the Knut constitution, a member can only quit by writing to the union. Starving Knut of cash has been the ultimate goal by TSC. The commission has at times refused to collect union dues on behalf of Knut and once threatened to rip their 52-year-old recognition agreement.

Mr Sossion said teachers have now shifted to paying their union fees directly to the branch secretaries to save the union from collapsing.

The TSC has, since July 2019, left out Knut members from pay rises and promotions contained in a Sh54 billion collective bargaining agreement (CBA) following a contentious interpretation of a court ruling.

“The war directed at Knut is to ensure that I’m removed from office, but I am telling TSC that I am here to stay, this union will not die as long as I am the secretary-general,” Mr Sossion said.

The fights between the union and TSC have attracted the attention of the world’s largest federation of teachers’ trade unions, Education International, which has now called on the Kenyan government to intervene and ensure that TSC reverses its anti-union actions against Knut.

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