Tutors barred from forming union to rival Knut, Kuppet

Collins Oyuu

Knut Secretary-General Collins Oyuu addresses participants during the conference at Sheikh Zayed Hall in Mombasa on April 18, 2022. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Plans by two tutors to form a new teachers union to rival the existing ones have been brought to a halt after the Court of Appeal agreed with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that its creation will confuse the sector.

Barnabas Lagat and John Githua Mbate wanted to register the Kenya Teachers Congress (KTC) but the Registrar of Trade Unions rejected the bid in March 2016.

They moved to the Employment and Labour Relations Court and Justice Hellen Wasilwa, ordered the registrar to facilitate the registration. Knut appealed the decision and a two-judge bench agreed that a splinter group would confuse teachers.

“In light of the fact that the respondents’ interests as teachers are already sufficiently represented in existing trade unions, the limitation of the respondents’ rights under Articles 36 and 41 of the Constitution is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society,” justices Jamila Mohammed and Hellen Omondi ruled.

Knut through lawyer Hillary Sigei submitted before the Court of Appeal that the registrar of trade unions acted within her purview by declining to issue the certificate of recruitment as the objectives of the prospective trade union were similar to the already existing ones.

Other than Knut, which is the oldest union having been established in 1957, there is also the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers and Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers.

Mr Sigei argued that Justice Wasilwa erred by interpreting one section of the Labour Relations Act instead of giving it a holistic approach.

He said while rejecting the registration of the union, the Registrar of Trade Unions wrote in her letter in March 2016 that “the intended sector of coverage is sufficiently represented by the already registered unions”.

“In our view, the Registrar of Trade Unions correctly applied Section 12 as read together with Section 14 (1) (d) (i) of the Act.

“This is in view of the fact that the respondents’ interests were already sufficiently represented by the existing trade unions and creation of a rival trade union would create confusion in the area that the respondents intended to represent,” the judges said.

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