, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 3 – Former powerful Cabinet Minister Joseph Kamotho who negotiated the now controversial pay deal with teachers, says the agreement should first be honoured before any fresh negotiations are made.
Kamotho who was the Education Minister in 1997 said the government needed to urgently address the matter to put it to an end.
In an interview with Capital FM News, Kamotho said the government should follow the Teachers Remuneration Act which outlines the modalities of negotiations between the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and the Ministries of Education and Finance.
“The Teachers Remuneration Act has not been repealed so the best thing is to implement the agreement as agreed through the Teachers’ Remuneration Committee before moving to the new Salaries and Remuneration Commission and because government will still have to honour that agreement, the sooner the better,” he said.
He also faulted the government and TSC for declaring the strike illegal saying they acted too late.
“Why did it come after the (strike) notice had expired? You don’t issue a court order when the notice has already expired and that is why KNUT is saying it is illegal and they are right about that,” he stated.
The former minister remembered that when the negotiations began in 1997, the teachers were demanding a 300 percent pay increment which to him was not possible because there were no resources.
“1997 was an election year just like it is now this year. So it took days and weeks negotiating and we reached a point where the discussions broke down so the president then (Daniel arap Moi) had to intervene,” Kamotho said.
He said the Kenya National Union of Teachers went to the former president’s residence in Kabarak where they held lengthy discussions in the presence of senior officials from the Ministries of Education and Finance.
“In fact, I did not attend that meeting because I felt that the matter should be resolved in my absence so that people don’t start saying that I sabotaged the discussions,” Kamotho explained.
“After lengthy discussions, the president accepted the demands by KNUT so as a result I was directed as the minister in charge to implement that decision and I went ahead and gazetted the increase,” he added.
Kamotho said he knew this was not feasible and he tried to persuade KNUT to accept the payment to be done in five annual phases but they rejected it and instead demanded for two phases.
“Being an election year, we had very little choice so we gave a first down payment of 34 percent. After the elections, I think we made the second payment in 1998 (and) after that things did not go smoothly because there was no money to pay,” he went on to explain.
He maintained that if the teachers had agreed to be paid in five phases, it would have worked out and by 2002 they would have been paid the whole 300 percent.
Asked why there is always money to effect pay increase for legislators, he said: “You can’t compare parliament and teachers. Parliament has slightly above 200 members but you are talking about quarter of a million teachers. So if you increase the teachers’ salaries by even 10 percent it far outstretches the increase for MP’s so you cannot really compare the two.”
He said the increasing number of teachers was also a challenge to the implementation of the pay deal.
“It became a campaign issue for the year 2002 and I think NARC promised to pay off the teachers so when they came to power they were unable to pay the same. And after 2003 when primary education was declared free, more and more teachers were recruited so technically the reason was shortage of money and the solution to this matter is just negotiations with the teachers,” he said.