Education International urges government intervention to stop union-busting in Kenya

published 9 December 2020 updated 16 December 2020

Today, 9 December, Education International’s Executive Board has adopted a resolution calling on the Government of Kenya to urge the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), the national employer authority in education, to desist from a campaign of discrimination against the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT). The Government must urge the TSC to respect international conventions, as well as the country’s relevant court decisions and Parliamentary decisions.

In a prolonged, intense anti-union campaign, the TSC has discriminated against members of the KNUT, denied coverage of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to members, and deprived the union of member fees.

This systematic attack against the KNUT has decimated union membership and crippled trade union capacity to represent members. In addition, the TSC is attempting to revoke a trade union recognition agreement signed in 1968.

In the conclusion of its Resolution, Education International’s Executive Board:

1.           Calls on the Government of Kenya to intervene and ensure that the TSC reverses its anti-union actions against KNUT and engages in serious dialogue and in good faith to restore healthy industrial relations and a good environment for quality education.

2.           Demands that the TSC restore KNUT’s membership to that of June 2019; desist from discriminating against KNUT members concerning their remuneration, promotion and working conditions; revert to implementing the 2017-2021 Collective Bargaining Agreement; and implement all the relevant court orders and Parliamentary decisions.

3.           Reaffirms Education International’s unequivocal support for the KNUT in its fight for the full respect of trade union rights and the interests of its members.

4.           Declares that the struggle of the KNUT to preserve and defend its trade union is Education International’s fight and that of the global trade union movement.

5.           Commits to mobilise solidarity to defend the rights and progress of teachers in Kenya.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and Education International wrote to the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, citing the systematic discrimination against KNUT members and attacks on its leaders. They indicated that, as of September, over 86,000 primary and post-primary school teachers had been unlawfully stripped of their KNUT membership, including many elected union officials.

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow and EI General Secretary David Edwards called for respect of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Convention 98 on the right to organise and collective bargaining (1949) ratified by Kenya. This Convention prohibits acts of anti-union discrimination “calculated to  make the employment of a worker subject to the condition that he shall not join a union or shall relinquish trade union membership, cause the dismissal of or otherwise prejudice a worker by reason of union membership or because of participation in union activities outside working hours or, with the consent of the employer, within working hours”.

The joint letter calls upon the government of President Kenyatta, “to direct the Teachers Service Commission to negotiate in good faith” with the union and restore the “rights of KNUT and its members to their status quo prior to May 2019”. It concludes that the Kenyan government “is solely responsible for ensuring that it respects its international obligations arising from the ILO conventions to which it is a party”.

Mugwena Maluleke, EI Vice President and General Secretary of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, (SADTU), in moving the resolution, provided details on the targeting of the KNUT and the systematic effort to force members to quit, He stressed that, if such a large and powerful union is destroyed in a country with a  long democratic tradition, other African governments may be tempted to attack independent trade unions as well.

You can access the full text of the resolution by clicking here.