NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 5 – The Government’s first meeting with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) over the on-going strike has ended in a stalemate.,
No single item between the parties was agreed upon following separate meetings between the rival unions and Labour Minister John Munyes that lasted more than six hours.
Munyes said they broke off discussions for the night and will resume them on Thursday morning, as both parties needed time to consult over the matters raised.
“It has been a very good meeting; we have explored issues ranging from salary increments, harmonisation, and calling off the strike. We have concretised the issues that need to be addressed but we have not agreed much on the issue and we will have to consult further,” he said.
The Minister confirmed that the government did not place any offers on the table as the parties had to first justify their demands.
Munyes told journalists who had camped outside the Ministry Headquarters at NSSF Building, that the issues of teacher’s salaries had been there for a long time and should be addressed for once and for all.
He called on the teachers to go back to class as the talks proceed.
“What we have started is positive and will deliver a solution to the problem that has affected the teacher, and I want to encourage the Unions to call off the strike. I want the unions to sleep over the matter for the sake of the children,” he added.
KNUT chair Wilson Sossion said that the government wanted more time to consult after the tutors put their offer on the table.
“We have placed our issues, the demands of teachers, as we registered the dispute with the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and have suspended the negotiations till Thursday morning. These are very weighty issues which you can’t clear. We are on strike and we have no problem if they want even a month to consult,” said Sossion after the discussions.
Sources at the meeting however said that the lack of results was due to the fact that neither party was willing to drop their hard-line stance.
In the case of KNUT, the government wanted to first address the issue of harmonisation of salaries and completion of the allowances that were part of the 1997 deal.
KNUT officials are said to have been uncomfortable about the emphasis placed on allowances, and not the 300 percent salary increase.
“How can a meeting be called with a pre-determined objective, the solution to this strike must be wholesome and not piecemeal,” said a union official, who wished not to be named for fear of being seen to jeopardise the first day of the talks.
Before the crisis meeting with teachers’ representatives, Education Minister Mutula Kilonzo stated categorically that a 300 percent pay-rise was out of the question.
Meanwhile, KUPPET led by Secretary General Akelo Misori, whose meeting took less than half an hour after that of KNUT’s said their negotiations had flopped, but that they still intend to meet Munyes on Thursday morning.
“The talks so far have collapsed and it’s unfortunate that the strike has to continue because what the government is putting on the table is unclear; harmonisation is not the only issue we have put on the table,” he claimed.
KUPPET officials who had camped at the minister’s office claimed that their rival union was receiving preferential treatment.
The meeting on Wednesday evening was also attended by TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni, Labour PS Beartice Kituyi and Education PS George Godia.