A row is brewing over plans by Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) officials to shut down 63 branches, more than half nationally.
Knut is also planning to extend retirement age of its union officials from the current 60 years to 65 years. This Knut will do by changing the union constitution.
The Knut chiefs also want to lock out of office any official who is elected as a member of county assembly, National Assembly or Senate or is nominated to any of the county and national government legislative arms.
The union officials intend to push through the constitutional changes tomorrow during a meeting of the National Advisory Council (NAC) that will be held at Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi.
“It is all systems go for the NAC meeting as we seek to rejuvenate the union structures after the new office-bearers took charge at the head office and in the branches,” Knut secretary-general Collins Oyuu told Nation yesterday. The 510 NAC delegates will be taken through the draft laws sought for adoption later by the Annual Delegates Conference (ADC) members.
The meeting comes hot on the heels of an induction meeting held for its newly elected branch officials which was held in Malindi from December 1 to 7.
It was at the retreat that proposed changes were unveiled.
If the proposal goes through, the once-giant Knut will remain with only 47 offices based in county headquarters.
Branches that will not be affected by the realignment as they were not split are Nairobi, Nyeri, Taita Taveta, Samburu, Laikipia, Nakuru, Turkana and Trans Nzoia.
Majority of the counties—initially structured as districts— have over the past 20 years under Knut’s representation structure been split to three or four branches with hardly 1,000 members each.
When the team led by Mr Oyuu took over leadership of Knut in June, the union signed a new recognition agreement with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) that proposes the reduction of branches to 47 by 2026.
“We want to restore order in the union, streamline branches and operations at the headquarters so as to better serve our members and respond to the prevailing challenges and dynamics,” said Mr Oyuu.
If adopted, hundreds of workers at the branches will lose their jobs alongside branch officials while reducing the representation of teachers at the union.
“Reduction of branches from 110 to 47 means that 63 branch executive secretaries will lose their jobs,” said a national official who did not want to be named.
The plan to increase the retirement age would benefit some of the top officials who are expected to retire.
Mr Oyuu will be 58 in May next year, as will National Chairman Patrick Karinga.
Second National Woman Representative Mercy Muthoni Ndung’u is 58, while First National Vice-Chairman Stanley Mutai should retire next year as he will hit 60.
The scheme is already facing opposition from a section of officials, who see it as a plan to stop them from rising to higher positions.
Another proposed change is to anchor in law the National Steering Committee, which has been loosely operating for decades. It comprises three top national officials and the woman representative.
Barring officials from holding parliamentary seats is seen as a means to cure the protracted battle that dogged former secretary-general Wilson Sossion, who was nominated to the National Assembly by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM).
Eventually he was struck off the roll of teachers by the TSC.
Mr Sossion, who says he still a Knut member, has written to Mr Oyuu in protest at the proposed changes.
“Please refrain using unorthodox means to mutilate Knut constitution. Amending the Knut constitution using the NEC and NAC shall be unconstitutional and attract [a lawsuit].
Extension of retirement age is not only selfish but dangerous!” Mr Sossion wrote.
He argued that officials of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers—Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba (national chairman), Bomet Central MP Ronald Tonui (assistant national treasurer) and Bungoma Woman Representative Catherine Wambilianga (national woman representative) were not targeted for victimisation by TSC despite being national union officials.