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Court Bars Teachers from forming union to rival Knut and Kuppet

Two teachers who wanted to register a new teachers union to rival the existing ones have had their dreams shuttered after the Court of Appeal agreed with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that the formation of the new union will confuse the teachers.

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

They proceeded to the Employment and Labour Relations Court where 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,” ruled justices Jamila Mohammed and Hellen Omondi.

Through lawyer Hillary Sigei, Knut submitted before the appellate Court that the registrar of trade unions acted within her mandate by declining to issue the certificate of recruitment since the new union shared objectives with the already existing ones.

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Also in existence are the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers and Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers.

According to Sigei, Justice Wasilwa made an error by interpreting one section of the Labour Relations Act instead of giving it a holistic approach.

“the intended sector of coverage is sufficiently represented by the already registered unions,” reads a march 2016 letter by the registrar of trade unions, as quoted by KNUT through Sigei.

“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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