Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2017, 08:40 GMT

2016 ITUC Global Rights Index - Kenya

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2016
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2016 ITUC Global Rights Index - Kenya, 9 June 2016, available at: [accessed 12 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Teachers negotiating rights denied, strikers threatened with sack: Kenya's Supreme Court ruled in August 2015 that state teachers should get a pay rise of between 50 to 60 per cent, in line with the demands made by the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET). The government, however, argued that it did not have money to fund the pay rise, and refused to pay. The unions had been struggling for over 18 years to get a pay rise, facing repeated broken promises by governments, and decided to call their members out on strike if they did not get their salary increase by the beginning of the school year on 31 August. There was no pay rise and the strike went ahead, with over 280,000 teachers taking part.

On 4 September a Nairobi court declared that the strike, which officially began on 1 September, was "unprotected", meaning that any teacher boycotting work was not shielded from disciplinary action. It stopped short of declaring the strike illegal.

On 14 September the striking teachers were given an ultimatum to report to work by Friday or face the sack. Their employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), also said the striking teachers would not to be paid for the days they had not worked. The teachers were not sacked, but 245,000 out of 288,060 teachers missed their September salaries. The TSC paid only 42,973 of them, mostly principals, their deputies and heads of departments, who are not eligible to join the unions and who stayed in school during the strike.

Finally, on 25 September the Employment and Labour Relations Court Judge Nelson Abuodha directed the teachers' unions to suspend the strike for 90 days. Conciliation and arbitration would take place during that time, at the end of which either party would be at liberty to declare a trade dispute if the conciliation failed. The judge also declined to declare the strike illegal. Teachers resumed work at the beginning of October.

In November a Kenyan appeals court rejected the pay rise of up to 60 per cent previously awarded to the country's teachers by an industrial court. The court found that the labour and employment court lacked jurisdiction to rule on the matter. The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) took the case to the ILO in November, explaining that "The Kenya government blatantly said it won't pay and never will it honour nor negotiate with Kenya National Union of Teachers and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers."

The TSC had still not begun pay talks by the beginning of January 2016 and had not deducted union dues for October, November or December, starving the union of funds.

Striking dockers sacked: On 4 July 2015 East Africa's biggest port in the Kenyan city of Mombasa summarily dismissed 28 workers for organising a strike that paralysed operations for two days. Over 2,000 workers went on strike on 1 and 2 July in protest against higher deductions for the government's national health insurance scheme, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), without an increase in wages. The port's management promptly threatened to fire them, and advertised their positions. On 3 July the government obtained a court order blocking the strikes.

At a nearby college owned and run by the port, at least ten people were injured in a stampede on the morning of Saturday 4 July, as thousands turned up for the advertised interviews to replace the striking workers.

Acting Transport Minister James Macharia then reversed the dismissals. Despite this decision, however, the Kenya Ports Authority went ahead with the sackings, and on Sunday 5 July port security guards and the police forcibly evicted the 28 sacked employees from KPA houses. Those sacked include shop stewards and members of Dock Workers' Union (DWU) executive board.

The following day the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Mombasa ordered Kenya Ports Authority to allow the 28 sacked workers to return to their staff houses pending the hearing of their case. Justice James Rika said the workers were illegally evicted from the houses for participating in the countrywide strike over NHIF deductions.

Striking health workers sacked: The Busia County Government sacked over 1,000 health workers on 23 November after they had been on strike for a week. The strike was called by the Kenya National Union of Nurses (KNUN) and the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists and Dentists Union (KMPPDU) after talks with county officials broke down. The health workers' grievances included delays in payment of salaries, lack of promotions and the shortage of drugs.

After issuing the dismissal letters, the county government went to court to have the strike declared illegal.

Finally, the strike ended with a 7-point negotiated agreement signed on 3 December, and all the strikers were allowed to return to work with a promise that nobody would be victimised for taking part in the strike.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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