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Teachers union issue strike warning

NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 29 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) on Monday called for a nationwide strike on January 19 after the expiry of a deadline which the union gave the government to resolve the salary increase dispute for about 250,000 members.
The KNUT Secretary-General Lawrence Majali said the panel resorted for an industrial action due the sluggishness of talks to increase the teachers’ pay check.

“We have told the government that we are not ready to remain at the negotiating table if they are not yielding any ground for the teachers; 19th of January is the D-day for the teachers to go on strike,” he told a press conference in Nairobi.

The union had given the Government until Monday to resolve the dispute that threatens to disrupt the country’s education system. "Our patience has run out," said Mr Majali.

Mr Majali said the union will go back to talks if the government agrees to an arrangement that would see the lowest paid teacher earn Sh13,850 and the highest Sh120,000.

“We needed the implementation to be done at once, then we had agreed the implementation date to be January 2009 and finally those figures we are talking about if they bring those one we are at home with it but so long as they maintain the status quo as they have done then the strike is on,”  Mr Majali added.

KNUT Chairman George Wesonga said the Teachers Service Remuneration Committee (TSRC), a joint government-KNUT salary negotiating panel has met more than 10 times since May 14 without a breakthrough.

Of the 11-member TSRC – five are from the government and five from the union – the education minister names the chairman.

The union and the Government are reported to have differed on the implementation timetable and methods of pay increase, with the government insisting on starting to implement the hikes in July 2009 and the raise be spread over five years while the union roots for immediate pay hikes.

The union accuses the government of insensitivity in addressing the plight of teachers in low cadre, unlike other civil servants.

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“Why should we wait till next year while others have received the increment you heard the Public Service Minister saying civil servants received their increment months ago, similarly our package can be carried through a supplementary budget,” Mr Majali said.

The government has agreed to an increase for senior teachers and principals by between 42 per cent and 177 per cent respectively.

Mr Wesonga said the government has refused to award a uniform increase for the majority junior teachers, numbering about 147, 751.

The government has agreed to a 18-35 percent increase for teachers in the lowest cadre, but KNUT insists on a 35 percent for all categories of teachers.

In 1995, hundreds of thousands of teachers downed their tool to demand a pay rise which nearly crippled the country’s education system, compelling the government to agree to a phased-salary increment.


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