Teacher unions need to be innovate when dealing with this ‘stubborn’ government

Healthcare workers at a Nakuru street during their demos on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

Trade unions in Kenya are at a crossroads. 55 days into the Kenya Medical Practitioners Pharmacists Dentists Union (KMPDU) strike and it has been all smoke and no heat. While Doctors and their union leaders have been able to prove their solidarity, temerity and mettle with organised street demos, eloquent pressers and firm stance at the negotiating table, the government has been moved on anything else but not the core reason for the industrial action, implementation of the CBA signed in 2017.

What started as a straightforward demand for what was already agreed appears to have turned into a power tussle and a game of perception with government resorting to set up a Taskforce on Medical Education and Training that would probably aim at overhauling the current guaranteed internship program for trainee doctors.

This is a familiar path. Government has often moved to stamp its authority whenever it is faced with a strong union. The unique thing is that in previous instances they were able to divide the union leaders or split the union itself, on this they may be going for a policy shift underneath the doctors’ feet.

We may to draw some lessons from KMPDU’s experience. Yesterday was our second Monday of our Kuppet strike as various counties did Maandamano to push the very government to observe the court’s verdict and ensure JSS colleagues are employed on Permanent and Pensionable terms. Is the Kenya Kwanza government bothered with what we are saying?

This is the same government that has turned its shoulder to millions of Kenyans who need health care more than anything.


KUPPET wants issues resolved before JSS teachers go to work

My suggestion is that as unionists we need to change our tacts, adjust our strategies to match the new government in place. What worked for Tom Mboya during Mzee Kenyatta’s time, what worked for Ambrose Adeya Adongo during Moi’s reign may not necessarily work for the current unions during President William Ruto’s administration.

Globally unions have struggled due to changes in human resource practice with term contracts being favoured over permanent employment, technological advancements among others.

Most of the unions in existence around the world have had to embrace strategies that are less confrontational but more effective in delivering results. Lobbying is one such option. With governments like ours this option offers them a sense of acknowledgement of the power equation.

It is also an act of self-preservation for the unions. This is as important as winning a bigger paycheck as unions exist to ensure fair administrative action by employers, help enforce good labour practice and insure their members from different other risks.

We should however be able to get all members on board. Union leaders need not be pro or anti-government and it need not be a personal effort by one leader. It has to be consultative, strategic and effective. The short term and long term objectives have to be established.

Lobbying has previously worked for us, silent endorsements have been done like during the finance bill. Let’s try the same with the JSS issue. May be all we need is many small win every financial year and not one big win every five years.

By Bakhit S.K

Bakhit S.K is Treasurer Kuppet Nandi County

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