NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – A nationwide teachers’ strike set for January 19 will go on after talks between the Teachers’ Union and the government over a pending pay increase collapsed on Tuesday. A three-hour-long crisis meeting called by Minister Sam Ongeri failed to break the deadlock even after the government rescinded from the earlier six phases to three phases of implementation.
At a hurriedly convened news conference after the failed talks, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Lawrence Majali insisted that teachers would only accept payment of the pay rise in one lump sum and not the three years offered by the government.
“We are telling our teachers that after today’s meeting with the Minister the position of our strike has not changed. Let them prepare for that battle,” Mr Majali announced.
“All the time teachers must fight for their rights. We have never been given anything on a silver platter. We work so hard but we are not paid sufficiently for us to live comfortably,” he added.
The Union has demanded that the hikes be effected starting this month as opposed to the government’s proposal of July. It further wants the maximum salaries of lower groups raised from an average of 25 to 35 percent.
The union held a brief meeting immediately after the crisis talks. Prof Sam Ongeri, had earlier insisted that the offer was the best the government could do owing to limited resources.
“The government will be in a position to pay increased salaries as from July 1. I would not want to think that my colleagues would want another direction. But if they do, then of course the opportunity costs and industrial costs will be enormous, so it’s up to them to decide,” said Prof Ongeri.
However Mr Majali remained defiant: “We have rejected what the Minister has offered.”
KNUT Chairman George Wesonga said that teachers had waited long enough. “We are sure we have followed the correct channels. We have been patient enough for the last eight months in the negotiations,” he said.
Under the government’s proposal the lowest teacher will earn Sh13,750 up from Sh10,000. A chief principal who is the highest paid teacher will on the other hand take home a whooping Sh120,000 after harmonisation up from Sh49,000.
The decision to harmonise the perks of senior teachers favours the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers, another teacher’s union that has also threatened to go on strike next week Thursday.
KUPPET has been pushing for the harmonisation of their members as promised by the government last year but KNUT whose bulk of members fall under the lower groups has wanted a wholesale review.
KNUT has a membership of over 240,000 representing close to 80 percent of the entire teaching fraternity while KUPPET has a mere 23 percent.