, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 3 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) was talking tough on Monday, vowing that teachers will remain on strike until the government heeds their pay demands.
KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion maintained that the teachers wanted their 1997 pay agreement dispensed with.
The pay deal involved increased basic salaries for all cadres of teachers as well as higher allowances.
The final instalment of the pay rise was paid out in 2009, but the allowances are yet to be completed as agreed.
“We are ready for war and we want to ask the teachers to proceed for as long as it takes,” Sossion announced at a press conference which was not attended by KNUT Secretary General David Okuta who was admitted to hospital since Sunday night after falling ill.
“We want to ask the teachers of Kenya to pray for our Secretary General to get well soon. The strike has taken off very well and we want the teachers to maintain the tempo and up the pressure,” said the chairman.
Okuta was on Monday evening airlifted from Kisumu to Nairobi for further treatment.
Sossion rebutted claims that the union was disobeying a court order saying that the government had set a bad precedent, failing to pay retired teachers despite existence of similar orders.
“The government has always criminalised strike actions by hiding behind the courts and that is not right. We have three orders from the High Court in Nakuru directing the government to pay retired teachers and it has not done so,” insisted Sossion.
The Industrial Court last Friday issued orders blocking the strike after an application by the Teaches Service Commission.
The court argued that talks were underway to address teachers pay grievances.
Sossion insisted that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) was not party to the implementation of the deal agreed in 1997.
“The salaries commission is a stranger to this matter. When the minister for public service announced salary increments for a section of public servants did it pass through (the commission)… The law is clear that as a labour movement we negotiate with the employer,” he argued saying that the deal was made lawful and binding upon being gazetted.
The teachers union is demanding various allowances amounting to more than Sh43 billion, from a deal they signed with the government in 1997.