Seven teachers, who had sued a private school in Mombasa over pay cut, have suffered a blow after the court declined to review the reduction and award damages.
Labour court Judge James Rika told the teachers that they ought to be satisfied that they are still in employment, while rendering little or no labour to the institution.
The judge noted that many employers have resorted to arbitrary termination of contracts but Jaffery Academy has taken a soft approach, revising rather than terminating the complainants’ contracts.
“The institution has acted reasonably, sustaining 136 employees in employment, instead of taking the approach many employers globally have adopted mass layoffs.
“It is imprudent in the circumstances, for the petitioners to take the stance of the Shakespearean Shylock and demand unwaveringly, for their pound of flesh,” said the judge.
The judge added: “Such demands as Shylock learnt have the potential for tragic ending.”
Justice Rika said it is impossible for the institution to predict when the public health problem will be resolved, a fact the teachers conceded in their affidavits, yet the same petitioners demand predictability from the school.
The seven teachers had sued Jaffery Academy accusing it of unilaterally making decisions in the revision of their employment contracts without consulting them and locking them out of virtual learning program.
The school comprises of nursery, primary and secondary sections. It has 136 staff, 87 being teachers and 49 support-staff.
The case was filed after the teachers, who were categorised as nonessential staff, were subjected to a 65 per cent salary reduction and locked out of virtual learning program as the institution scaled down operations due to Covid-19 pandemic that disrupted learning across the country.
Besides subjecting teachers to 65 and 45 per cent salary reduction, the institution was also forced to reduce tuition fees by 30 per cent for nursery section, 25 per cent and 20 per cent for primary and secondary schools respectively following pressure from the parents.
The school’s senior head teacher Jonah Safari said owing to the untimely closure of all schools, the institution was faced with difficulties on how best the situation could be managed and after wider consultations pay-cut option was arrived at as opposed to layoffs.
He said that as soon as the Covid-19 pandemic set in and persisted, parents and guardians agitated for fee reduction, which upon implementation, led to a reduction in cash flow.
“Private Schools like ours pay salaries based solely on fees paid by parents. The critical challenge the school is faced with is the ability to pay salaries when there is no normal schooling,” said Mr Safari.
The institution noted that reduction of salaries was forecast on reduced income from school fees, unbudgeted costs of virtual learning and ICT infrastructure and unpaid school fees.
But the teachers argued that the institution has failed to provide equal treatment including right to equal opportunity at work when it selectively discriminated against them.
“There was no consensus and negotiations over the pay cuts the decision was made entirely by the board at the exclusion of the teachers. We feel victimised and discriminated upon and have been subjected to psychological stress,” said the teachers.
The teachers also complained that the process of categorising them into critical, essential and non-essential service providers was not transparent since it did not consider those employees who have served the school for longer years.
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