President William Ruto has held meetings with teachers’ unions in a bid to win their support over the controversial 3 per cent housing levy.
On Thursday last week, the President met with the National Executive Council of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and on Saturday with the National Executive Council of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet).
Kuppet officials who attended Saturday’s meeting told the Nation that it ended without an agreement.
“The President has made up his mind on the Finance Bill that it must be passed. We made our submissions and he made his, but we didn’t agree on a number of things. We’re not opposing it just for the sake of opposing it. We have valid reasons,” said an official who isn’t authorised to speak on behalf of the union.
He revealed that when they left the State House meeting, they had agreed that communication would come from the Kuppet national office. Efforts to get a response from Secretary-General Akello Misori were unsuccessful as he did not respond to phone calls and text messages.
His Kuppet counterpart Collins Oyuu also remained tight-lipped. However, some Kuppet branches have already communicated to their members.
“Our consultative meeting with His Excellency at State House yesterday was not fruitful. One by one, we presented the message of our branches on why teachers are against the 3 per cent housing levy as proposed in the Finance Bill 2023. Our presentations focused on the content of the numerous petitions that have already been submitted to the National Assembly.
“In response, the President insisted that the housing scheme was Kenya Kwanza’s flagship project. Some of the submissions included a salary increase to cushion our members once this deduction is made. Again, the President gave no assurance of a salary increase in the next financial year,” read a message from Sabala Inyeni, the Vihiga branch secretary.
A communication from Busia branch secretary Okisai Moffats paints a picture of a meeting that ended in disarray.
“All the proposals and suggestions we made were rejected. A salary increase to cushion teachers against inflation was rejected. A proposal to make the housing scheme voluntary ... the response was ‘it's compulsory. Support the housing scheme or be prepared to disband your organisations.’ That was the unspoken message. We hit a snag, but the message was delivered. Anything else is propaganda,” said Mr Okisai.
Another branch secretary said the proposals were made by Mr Misori, but only about 12 branch secretaries spoke during the meeting. “Watu waliogopa (people are afraid),” the official said.
Kisii branch secretary Joseph Abincha wrote: “He (President)promised to involve all relevant institutions and affected groups to find the best way forward ... He was non-committal on the salary increase but promised to review salaries when the economy improves.”
Speaking in Embu on Friday, President Ruto alluded to his meeting with Knut the previous day.
“I spoke to teachers yesterday. They were complaining that their salaries are low... Sh30,000. Three per cent is Sh900. That’s a lot of money. And I told them that those who will benefit are the young Kenyans. Maybe even their own children ...” said the Presidnet.
Teachers form one of the largest blocks of government employees, with about 360,000 on the Teachers Service Commission payroll.