, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 5 – The appeal on the pay increase awarded to teachers resumed Monday with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) maintaining that the Employment and Labour Relations Court had jurisdiction to adjudicate over the pay dispute.
Through Senior Counsel Paul Muite, KNUT contended that the court was fully entitled to the reconciliation process in a bid to resolve the conflict and as such provided a conducive environment for all the parties.
Muite accused the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) of applying double standards in their petition since it had also agreed to the guidance of the court in the whole process.
“The appeal should be dismissed and government should negotiate on how to implement the salary increment awarded to teachers. Teachers are not the cause of the ballooning wage bill and that the 50 to 60 percent increase awarded would not have a huge impact,” he stated.
He further pointed out that award was initially fronted by TSC and that is what Justice Nduma Nderi referred to when awarding the increase.
“Initially before the judge adjudicated on the matter, we had demanded between 150 and 300 percent increase in our basic pay. However TSC brought the figure down to between 50 and 60 percent. That is one of the reasons why teachers ended their initial strike in January. Now they are disowning that offer which they tabled and saying that they can’t pay and won’t pay,” he stated.
John Mbaluto who was also appearing on behalf of KNUT described Justice Nderi as a specialist in Labour Law and hence was competent to take all factors into consideration before making a decision.
“Justice Nduma Nderi is a specialist judge in a specialist court who was put in his position due to his specialty and knowledge. Before making his decision on the pay increase, he took everything into consideration and consulted with the relevant parties. So there is no way we can say that he was not qualified to act as an arbitrator,” he stated.
In his earlier submissions on behalf of the government, Attorney General Githu Muigai had argued that the Employment and Labour Relations Court did not have any jurisdiction whatsoever to award teachers a pay increase of between 50 and 60 percent.
Muigai contended that Justice Nderi’s description of the matter as an economic dispute is not recognised anywhere in law.
In the AG’s opinion, the judge ought to have taken seriously the role played by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission pointing out that its advisory role was important to the proceedings.
This argument is the government’s main defence in its appeal against the pay rise awarded to the teachers and which Muigai described as ‘totally untenable’ and one that can crush the economy – as earlier stated by a government economist.
The AG is now seeking the Court of Appeal’s order to quash the earlier decision of the Employment and Labour Relations Court which awarded the teachers a pay increase.
Geoffrey Obura acting for TSC had also stated that any award by a court of law must be preceded by voluntary negotiations.
He argued that in the current dispute, TSC had never made an offer to award teachers a 50 to 60 percent salary increment and urged that the matter needed to be approached with a lot of caution.