The new teachers union is being fronted by close Sossion allies. Some have confided to Teachers Arena that the former Knut Secretary General Mr Wilson Sossion is the sponsor and owner of the new union.
However Sossion has publicly distanced himself from the union saying he left Knut and that he has no business in the teaching fraternity.
“Teachers are rebelling. Splinters are formed to fill vacuums. I left Knut and shouldn’t be associated with activities within the teaching service,” he said.
The new union National Education Union (NEU) comes after months of turmoil that saw many leave the once giant Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).
It also comes shortly after a tumultuous leadership change in Knut and the signing of a controversial non-monetary collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC).
Already there are rumours that Knut will now be exclusively for primary school teachers and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) to be for Secondary school teachers.
The rumours stem from the fact that Knut top leadership have dragged in releasing to the public the content of the signed CBA 2021 – 2025.
Further rumours also say in the new CBA school administrators will no longer be Knut members.
Knut, Kuppet and Kusnet together with TSC are expected to deposit a copy of the agreed and signed new CBA to the Labour and Relations court.
The splinter group, NEU, whose rallying call is “Service, Justice and Unity”, plans to recruit teachers from pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels, as well as those in private institutions.
The proposed Kenya National Union of School Administrators (Knusa) is also said to have drafted a 46-page constitution and has also begun the process of registration.
A move by the Kenya National Union of Private Teachers to change its name to Kenya National Union of Private and Basic Education School Teachers (Kupbest) to enable it to attract public school teachers was opposed in 2019 by Knut, which feared losing its members.
Sources say that the new union has been necessitated by the existing unions’ inability to fight for the teachers’ rights.
Knut has had a rocky relationship with TSC. The ties worsened when Knut was under the leadership of Mr Sossion, who was replaced in June by Mr Collins Oyuu.
At some point, TSC wrote to Knut threatening to cancel their recognition agreement, an action that would have made the union unable to negotiate on behalf of teachers.
As per the non-monetary CBA signed by Knut and TSC last month, teachers will not get a pay increase for the next four years (2021-2025). This was after annual salary review of government employees was frozen for two years.
The formation of NEU is another scheme to scramble for millions of shillings from teachers hard earned pay. NEU registration process is at an advanced stage.
The key issues the union says it will address include salary increment for all teachers, reduction of union dues from 1.8 per cent to one per cent of a teachers’ salary and “addressing teachers’ issues without bias”
Knut had been the sole voice of teachers until the late 1990s, when Kuppet was formed with the assistance of the state to weaken Knut’s influence. The two have been rivals ever since, with Knut recently losing members to Kuppet.
The new union has also promised that all officials from the branches to the national level will be elected by all members and not through a delegates’ system.
The union also wants classroom teachers to earn more or less the same amount as the school administrators.
According to the Labour Relations Act 2007, before a new union is registered, the promoters are required to write to the registrar of trade unions and present their constitution.
A Gazette notice is then published to notify the public of plans to register the new union. If no objection is raised, the union is allowed to start recruiting members.
It is not yet clear if TSC will sign a recognition agreement with the new unions, but they will seek international support from other teachers’ unions across the world.
Some classroom teachers on the other hand are pushing to register their own union. Kenya Classroom Teachers Association (KCTA). This is just one of another three other unions planned to be formed by October this year.
This puts the question on fate of and importance of teachers unions in Kenya.