, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 17 – The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) appears to be blowing hot and cold on the latest strike threat over unmet pay demands.
KNUT National Chairman Wilson Sossion on Monday asked their members to continue reporting to work as they await word from the union’s Secretary General on the strike.
Sossion had on Sunday posted on his Facebook page that teachers were preparing to stage another strike in their clamour for full implementation of a 1997 deal on allowances.
“God commanded the children of Israel to go round the walls of Jericho seven times. On the seventh round, the walls came down tumbling and the enemy was defeated – Israel captured Jericho. This will be the seventh strike by the teachers of Kenya over their allowances and salaries since 1997. JERICHO WILL COME DOWN!” Sossion posted on Sunday.
However, on Monday the union boss said that teachers were committed to following due process and will only call for a strike after a meeting by the National executive Council.
Sossion disowned calls by ‘some union officials’ who have been rallying teachers to down tools over the government’s failure to allocate funds for their pay increase in the budget.
“As teachers, we are now prepared for the next battle which we have been pushed by the government but we want to correct a few things here today. The strike action by the teachers of Kenya is called by the KNUT Secretary General and not any other person,” he stressed.
“Any other strike threats from other quarters are merely side shows. The Secretary General shall communicate to teachers on what to do exactly.”
While expressing disappointment on the recent budget statement by Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich, Sossion insisted that they will be left with no option but go on strike if assurance is not given to them.
The teachers are irked by the government’s failure to allocate funds for their pay, yet it has set aside funds to roll out the free solar laptop programme.
“We treat this laptop project as a highly suspicious programme. It could be another maize scandal in the offing, another Triton, another Anglo-leasing, or another anything because we were not consulted. We never even presented it as a priority problem in the sector,” he said.
“Our problem is the Legal Notice number 534 (which dates back to 1997). Once that is addressed, then we can begin listening to the rest,” he stated.
KNUT Secretary General Xavior Nyamu echoed his sentiments, accusing the government of ignoring teachers’ demands which include housing, medical and commuter allowances.
“We are not going to allow our teachers to live in a single room that is Sh2,000 while they have a mandate of a legal notice that can give them enough money to be properly housed and you cannot expect them to be role models when they do not even know where to hang their clothes,” he stated.
“Our major items of 1997 have not been looked at by anybody and we are not talking about the degazettement of legal notice number 16 because other issues of the same are being catered for. The issues that are remaining are the house allowances, Medical allowance and transport allowance.”
The union is demanding that the government pays Sh25 billion in annual allowances which includes housing, commuter and medical commuted in the ratios of 50 percent; 10pc and 20pc of teachers’ basic pay respectively.
This was part of a deal the government reached with KNUT in 1997.
However, a legal notice published to effect the pay (No.534 of 1997) was countered with another (No.16 of 2003) to reduce the payments.
Teachers contested the legality of the 2003 notice until last year in September when they went on strike for three weeks paralysing operations in public schools.
The industrial action was resolved when the government agreed to pay teachers Sh13.5 billion in basic salary but left out the allowances which were a matter before a parliamentary select committee then.
The TSC disagreed with the union over whether the allowances should be paid immediately, especially after the select committee tabled a report in Parliament indicating that the notice of 2003 was illegal.