, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 24 – Teachers in public schools were set to go on strike from midnight on Monday, as their top organ declared a nationwide work boycott over unpaid allowances.
Describing it as ‘the father of all strikes’, Kenya National Union of Teachers Chairman (KNUT) Wilson Sossion said they would not go back to class until a Collective Bargain Agreement signed in 1997 was implemented to cover medical, commuter and housing allowances.
He accused the government of having misplaced priorities by according the ‘free’ laptop project more funds which were unnecessary.
“This National Executive Council has hereby resolved that the nationwide strike of teachers commence. Will as many as are of this opinion say Aye; and will as many as are of the contrary opinion say Nay… the Ayes have it!” he declared.
KNUT Secretary General Xavier Nyamu urged teachers in public schools to start handing over their duties to their respective head teachers from Monday afternoon.
“We are asking the government to reorganise itself so that teachers are paid all their dues in total and we are not in any position to negotiate with anybody. There is no office we have not gone. We have even been given a certificate of disagreement,” he stated.
He further called on parents to take their children away from school starting Tuesday as no learning will be taking place.
“We want automatic house allowance of 50 percent as agreed in legal notice 534,” he said.
The union had suspended proposed strike action in February after negotiations appeared to bear fruit.
“We observe with concern that to date, the commission has refused, ignored and neglected to sign the agreement. Thereafter, on 20th February 2013, the commission and the KNUT commenced conciliatory meetings under section 69 of the Labour Relations Act 2007.”
He recalled that the union’s efforts to find a way forward did not bear any fruit.
“In spite of all our attempts to persuade the commission to sign the agreement, to pave way for an amicable solution, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) remained intransigent, leaving the conciliator with no other option but to issue a certificate of disagreement on 7th March 2013,”he said.
President Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto have been urging the teachers to give a dialogue a chance and call off the intended industrial action.
On Sunday, President Kenyatta once again urged the teachers and other public workers clamouring for enhanced salaries and allowances to give dialogue a chance.
President Kenyatta reassured that the government acknowledged the noble role teachers play in teaching and moulding children and would therefore remain committed to improving on their welfare.
He made it clear that the government was willing and ready to negotiate with the teachers.
Saying the government cannot meet all the enhanced salary demands for its workers at once, the Head of State emphasised the need for all Kenyans to play their roles effectively to grow the economy and support increased expenditures.
KNUT arrived at the decision during its National Delegates Conference on Monday.
The union has been holding nationwide meetings to prepare its members for the strike.
Meanwhile, the rival Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) says it will mobilise it membership to hold demonstrations even as the top leadership of the union engages with the government.
Milemba said they will be pushing to given Sh20.8 billion but added they are prepared to settle for Sh14 billion as their minimum package.