Kenya: Teachers’ federation rejoins COTU-K

The teachers’ Federation in Kenya (Kenya National Union of Teachers - KNUT) has re-joined the country’s Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU-K). This decision strengthens the trade union movement in the Kenya and puts an end to a 50-year old governmental ban for public employees from joining a confederation.

By Jacob Rosdahl, LO/FTF Council

KNUT is one of the biggest trade union federations in Africa, with over 200,000 members. The federation was one of the founders of COTU-K but had to leave it in 1969 when a presidential decree banned public workers from being affiliated to a central organisation.

Fifty years later, KNUT has re-joined COTU-K, in a move that considerably strengthens the trade union movement in Kenya, according to the LO/FTF Council.

KNUT is by far the biggest federation in Kenya with a tremendous impact and high organising rates. With the inclusion of KNUT, COTU’s influence can only grow stronger.

- Joergen Assens, Head of Programmes at the LO/FTF Council.

Historic decision

COTU-K Secretary General Francis Atwoli offers the organisation’s affiliation certificate to the Secretary General of KNUT, Wilson Sossion - Picture: COTU-K

The long-serving General Secretary of COTU-K, Francis Atwoli, describes the expanding of COTU-K as a historic decision. To the Kenyan media he has proclaimed that the collective power of KNUT and COTU-K will bring “great results for all workers in Kenya”.

Since it was forced to disaffiliate from COTU-K in 1969, KNUT has been on its own except for a short period as part of a smaller umbrella organisation for public workers. It was a dispute last year over leadership in this organisation that initiated the negotiations between KNUT and COTU-K.

Stronger negotiation powers

The president of KNUT’s board, Wycliffe Etole Omucheyi, has joined the board of COTU-K. KNUT currently has a collective bargaining agreement of four years. The goal is to get one of two years. As its General Secretary said, KNUT “can’t do that on our own. We are here to build up solidarity and networks. The cooperation will reward us with international respect”.

The General Secretary of COTU-K, Francis Atwoli affirmed that the overall increase in power will force the government to listen to the organisation and that “The destiny of our country is defined by the working men and women of our time”.

The purpose of every trade union is to fight for the rights of its members. By joining COTU, we will improve the quality of our negotiation in the service of our members.

- William Sossion, KNUT General Secretary.

KNUT has more than 200.000 members and each of the schools in Kenya has an educated, professional delegate. With the merger, COTU-K now claims to have more than two million members in Kenya. The smaller teachers’ union KUPPET (Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers) with 80.000 members also joined COTU-K.

The role of LO/FTF Council

KNUT is supported by the LO/FTF Council, Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators (BUPL) and the Danish Union of Teachers (DLF) on capacity strengthening of KNUT and its school representative, trade union leaders as well as organisational development. Similarly, the LO/FTF Council has supported COTU-K with capacity building of its workers education, social dialogue and organising of informal economy workers.

Kenyan teachers during a workshop that the Danish Union of Early Childhood and Youth Educators has conducted with KNUT - Picture: LO/FTF