What you need to know:
- Knut leaders had earlier in the day sharply criticised Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi who had on Tuesday said that an agreement signed in 1997 between the union and the government was obsolete
- Knut chairman Wilson Sossion said that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Act allowed agreements between government and the teachers to be enforced after being gazetted by the minister
- The Kenya Civil Servants Union has indicated it could also ask its members to go on strike as it demands increases of up to 60 per cent in allowances for its members
The nationwide strike called by teachers’ unions entered its second day on Wednesday with numerous schools across the country hard hit by the boycott called to push for higher allowances.
The strike has piled pressure on the government as civil servants also threatened to join the teachers in pressing for higher pay.
On Wednesday evening, President Kenyatta summoned top education officials to State House, Nairobi, to discuss the crisis.
Knut leaders had earlier in the day sharply criticised Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi who had on Tuesday said that an agreement signed in 1997 between the union and the government was obsolete. Mr Kambi had told the teachers to seek a fresh Collective Bargaining Agreement because the 1997 one was not properly filed in the Industrial Court as required by law.
But on Wednesday, Knut said that the deal — also known as the Legal Notice 534 of 1997 — whose implementation will cost the government Sh47 billion, had been properly gazetted by the minister for Education at the time.
Knut chairman Wilson Sossion said that the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Act allowed agreements between government and the teachers to be enforced after being gazetted by the minister.
Citing section 14 of the Act, Mr Sossion said that the Teachers Service Remuneration Committee was required to review the salaries and allowances of teachers from time to time with the consent of all parties.
“We take great exception with the statements by the Cabinet Secretary for Labour declaring that the Legal Notice 534 of 1997 was obsolete. This is absolute mischief in itself and employers in the public sector are not required to register CBAs with the industrial court,” Mr Sossion said.
The 1997 agreement is the basis of the on-going teachers strike that enters its third day on Thursday.
The Kenya Civil Servants Union has indicated it could also ask its members to go on strike.
On Wednesday, they union demanded increases of up to 60 per cent in allowances for its members.
In demands presented to Deputy President William Ruto, the union said it wants house allowance for the lowest paid member working in rural areas to be increased from Sh2,000 to Sh12,000. It is also seeking an increase in various allowances including commuter, hardship and risk.
Its leaders will be meeting in Kisumu tomorrow to decide on the course of action.
Should they join teachers in striking, public services in key institutions could be paralysed, piling pressure on the government to pay up.
On the teachers’ strike, Mr Kambi had said that the strike was illegal, and that Knut should call it off and engage the government in fresh talks for higher pay and allowances.
Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi had also weighed in arguing that the allowances that the teachers were agitating for had already been implemented starting in 2003.
But Mr Sossion begged to differ. “The utterances by both ministers will only serve to fuel the strike,” he told a press conference at Knut headquarters in Nairobi. He also told teachers to stay put until the government gives in to their demands.
“This is a lawful and constitutionally-protected strike. The government is mistaken to think that by threatening and intimidating teachers that we will abandon our course,” he said, accompanied by his union officials.
The TSC had invited the union officials for talks yesterday evening to seek ways of ending the strike that has plunged the education sector into a crisis. However, Knut dismissed the invitation.
“Let the government allocate money to the TSC and then we shall come to the table and see whether it is anything acceptable. But until then, we are not interested in anything else,” Mr Xavier Nyamu, the union’s secretary-general, said.
If Knut gets its way, teachers’ salaries will be pegged at 50 per cent of basic pay, medical (20 per cent), commuter (10 per cent), hardship (30 per cent) and responsibility allowance depending on the cadre of the teacher. “No teacher shall go to class unless all allowances as provided by the agreement are disposed of in total,” Mr Nyamu said.
But Prof Kaimenyi on Wednesday accused Knut of reneging on its promise to attend negotiations called to seek a solution to the strike.
He said all the unions had agreed to attend all negotiations when they met with the Parliamentary Committee on Education last Monday.
“The unions said in good faith that they will come for the negotiations. Where is the good faith if we call you for a meeting like yesterday’s then you do not turn up?” Prof Kaimenyi asked.
Most of the demands by the striking teachers had been addressed by previous governments, the Cabinet Secretary said. “The truth of the matter is that what they are raising has been addressed... Nobody is disputing that they need the allowances, but negotiations have to be done within the legal framework,” he said.
Additional report by Jeremiah Kiplangat