We’ll down tools if April pay comes late, say civil servants

Kenya Union of Civil Servants Secretary-General Tom Odege

Kenya Union of Civil Servants Secretary-General Tom Odege addresses mourners during the funeral of former Universities Academic Staff Union national chairman Muga K’Olale at Agoro Sare Primary School in Rachuonyo South on Friday last week. 

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group

Civil servants and teachers have warned the government against delaying their April salaries.

Speaking through their respective unions, the government workers, who faced pay delays last month, said they had endured untold suffering and would not tolerate further hold-ups in their pay.

Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) warned of a nationwide strike if the government, which has acknowledged cash-flow problems but has vowed not to borrow to pay salaries, fails to process the payments on time.

The country is facing an unprecedented financial crisis that resulted in delays in the payment of March salaries for civil servants, members of Parliament and county employees. Government employees were told to brace themselves for more salary delays amid a worsening economic situation in the country.

Some county government workers are already on strike with the health sector the worst hit. The National Treasury announced that the government is caught between under-performing revenues and limited access to finance due to a narrowing borrowing headroom.

But unions have dismissed this narrative, saying, the State has enough money to pay its employees. UKCS Secretary-General Tom Odege argued that taxes collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority should be used to pay salaries, noting that there has not been a decrease in revenue collection.

"We have not seen a decrease in revenue collection since the previous administration left office, therefore there is no reason at all for salary delays," Mr Odege, who is also the Nyatike MP, said.

Should the workers’ demands not be met, Mr Odege warned, “the government should prepare for a mega strike in July."

UKCS also asked for better terms of employment for its members. Mr Odege said salaries should be commensurate with the work that civil servants do.

He called on the government to review the salaries and allowances paid to all its workers to afford them a dignified standard of living.

"Some employees retire while they are still poor because of low salaries and pensions," Mr Odege said. According to the unionist, most retirees have been abandoned with no one thinking of the sacrifices they made in service to the public.

"When in public service, they milk you but when you retire they abandon you. All retirees should get medical insurance [paid for by the government] to cushion them from heavy hospital bills," Mr Odege said

Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori told teachers to prepare to leave the class and go to the streets to demand for better terms of employment.

He said a nationwide teachers’ strike will begin next month should there be another salary delay. The unionist further revealed that he has reliable information that his members may be paid their April pay, as well as salaries for other months, in phases, a plan he said would not resolve the financial challenges faced by the tutors.

Should this happen, Kuppet instructed its members to get ready to go on strike and disrupt learning while schools were gearing up for the second term.

According to Mr Misori, most teachers are still struggling under the disruptions brought by Covid-19 pandemic and payment of salaries in bits will be a disadvantage to them. Mr Misori said teachers have a huge workload that they are trying to address and delayed salaries will complicate matters for them.

He said the curriculum was compressed after the pandemic and most teachers are trying to adjust to the changes.

"We do not expect teachers to open schools in May amidst salary delays. They should be paid on time and payment of salaries in phases as someone has hinted to us will not be taken lightly," the Kuppet boss said.

Homa Bay County Kuppet Executive Secretary Stephen Yogo and Chairman Jack Okoth said teachers were demoralised. The union, he said, is ready to engage in talks with the government to review their salaries.

Kuppet faulted the government for failing to fund the national drama and film festival as well as the science competition. Union officials claimed some teachers are stranded and unable to move to venues where the competition are being held.