Teachers’ strike:Total shutdown looms
The economy is facing a major jolt as the season of worker discontent kicks in with just six months to the General Election.
Pushed into a corner by relentless wage demands, Cabinet ministers Anyang’ Nyong’o and Mutula Kilonzo are now speaking the same language and digging in for a fight.
In the process, a major crisis is unfolding as the flag of work stoppages and labour disputes is unfurled, with secondary school teachers set to join the nationwide boycott today. Tomorrow, university lecturers who are members of the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) will down their tools to demand that the Government honour a collective bargaining agreement on salaries and allowances.
At the same time Government 393 intern doctors (registrars) at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) have been suspended by Medical Services Minister, Prof Nyong’o, for having “left patients to suffer”. (see separate story on page 4). The minister accused the registrars and other striking interns of “blackmailing the Government and Kenyans”.
In an advert on P37 of this newspaper, Nyong’o said, “all registrars whose training and practicing rights have been withdrawn should be given one month notice to vacate all KNH facilities (with effect from) August 27.” The sacking of the registrars and interns, who do the heavy lifting in hospitals, could plunge the facilities into a new crisis.
For instance, the registrars do the routine visits to patients in hospital wards to ensure they are following medication, which is referred to as ward rounds.
After consultant doctors have seen patients in specialist clinics, it is the registrars who do the follows-ups. Their absence could also disrupt patients scheduled for minor operations.
The private sector has not been spared either. Workers at Airtel staged a sit-in on Tuesday at the offices of a firm to which Kenya’s second largest mobile phone services firm has outsourced its customer service operations to cut costs (see story on Page 29).
Airtel has been bleeding money in its African operations, including Kenya. The sit-in paralysed customer services and left the firm’s subscribers stranded.
Authorities face more industrial action today, as the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) joins the ongoing nationwide strike by members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers.
This will effectively disrupt learning in public primary and secondary schools, which reopened on Monday for the third term during which national examinations are administered. Tomorrow academic activities will be disrupted at public universities as lecturers walk out of lecture halls, escalating the crisis in the education sector.
Uasu called the strike to press for higher pay and varsities’ non-teaching staff have also announced they would participate in the industrial action.
With the Knut strike entering Day Three today, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) battled in court to have teachers compelled to resume work. TSC secured extended orders from the Industrial Court outlawing the strike.
The orders are in force until Friday, when the court is due to rule on the legitimacy of the industrial action, or whether the injunction would be lifted. But wary that previous orders issued last Friday had been violated, TSC lawyers asked the court to deny the unions court representation.
Kuppet sent a lawyer who pleaded their case, saying their members were not on strike, as widely believed, but were set to commence industrial action today.
Through lawyer Alexander Jaoko, in a replying affidavit, Kuppet’s Secretary General Akello Misori explained that the union had not acted in contempt of court as TSC claimed.
Kuppet members were therefore waiting for the scheduled date to begin their strike. The lawyer asked the court to quash the restraining order.
Industrial court judge, Justice Maureen Onyango, however, extended the orders that had been issued by Justice Byrum Ongaya following TSC application objecting to the strike.
Knut, whose officials have also indicated they are not aware of the orders, was not represented in court.
Away from the courtroom, Kuppet bosses insisted the strike would go on. “All secondary schools are starting the nationwide strike tomorrow (today). Teachers have rights just like learners. So let the Government know all teachers want is their rights,” said Kuppet national chairman Omboko Milemba.
Uasu, Universities Non-Teaching Staff Union, and the Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) have said their members would stay away from their workstations tomorrow.
Four teachers arrested on Monday were hauled before a Murang’a court and charged with taking part in an unlawful strike and incitement to violence.
Maragua branch Knut Executive Secretary Amos Murigi, Joseph Kibe, Stephen Kariuki, and Josephat Kariuki denied the two counts of taking part in an illegal strike and incitement to violence before Murang’a Senior Resident Magistrate BN Kituyi.
Away from the courtroom, Knut bosses escalated the crisis by demanding the sacking of Kilonzo, saying he is not well placed to run the Ministry of Education. Knut national chairman Wilson Sossion declared teachers would not return to classes until their demands for 300 per cent salary increase are met.
Sossion demanded the minister apologises for terming the nationwide strike politically instigated.
“We want an apology from Mutula because as teachers we do not have any political affiliation. Neither do we have ethnic affiliations. We are professionals,” Sossion said.
Knut bosses addressed a joint press conference in Nairobi with the Kenya National Association of Parents secretary general Musau Ndunda, who piled more pressure on Government. Ndunda issued a 14-day notice to the Government to ensure smooth learning is restored in schools failure to which he would move to court to sue the State under Article 53 of the Constitution.
By Augustine Oduor and Isaiah Lucheli, The Standard
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