, NAIROBI, Kenya, July 14 — The three week teachers’ strike continues after the top decision-making organ of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) rejected the government’s offer of Sh17 billion.
KNUT Secretary General Mudzo Nzili said the National Executive Council (NEC) will only take a vote to end the strike once the government puts a better offer on the table.
“We came with a lot of jubilation knowing that we have an offer from the government and these people will accept it and because of that expectation, the bishops came to pray because we were sure these people were going to take the offer but they have refused,” Nzili said.
Nzili said the government had offered to pay them Sh12 billion in commuter allowances in two phases; the first phase coming into effect July 1 and the second in 2014 but the union’s executive council rejected the offer saying the entire amount should be paid in full before the strike can be called off.
The NEC is also demanding that a housing allowance offer totaling Sh29 billion be put on the table. Before our teachers can commute to work, they must come from somewhere. And the constitution guarantees them that right,” Nzili said.
And although President Uhuru Kenyatta declined KNUT’s housing demands with the explanation that they are already harmonised with those of other civil servants, Nzili was adamant that their demand must be met before teachers resume teaching.
“Read the Industrial Court order issued two weeks ago. Our negotiations are to be based Legal Notice 534 of 1997 and Legal Notice 16 of 2003. The harmonisation demands were made by KUPPET and that is not our concern,” he said.
The President on Friday told editors at a State House meeting that his administration will not be intimidated to implement the teachers pay deal signed in 1997 in full because he was not in power at the time.
“We will not respond to what the President said, it must be separated from our negotiations,” Nzili said when asked to comment on the president’s statement.
Sossion and Nzili have dismissed as rumours accusations that the union had called the strike under the influence of the opposition.
“We get our instructions from our over 270,000 members. This is not a ping-pong game,” they said.
The strike enters the 21st day tomorrow as KNUT and the government maintained their hard line positions.
Officials of the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET), whose members were also on strike, on Sunday said salary arrears for June which had been withheld by the government had been released and sent to members’ respective banks.
The union’s Secretary General Akello Misori urged KNUT officials to accept the offer given to them by the government to enable their members resume teaching.
““The KNUT officials should sit with the commission and seek to increase amounts on the allowances like the housing allowance that we were offered,” Misori said.
Nzili hit back at KUPPET, branding them as sell outs and accused them of diminishing the bargaining power of the teaching fraternity as a whole.
“When parliamentarians push for higher pay they do so as a whole. Even if you attack two snakes that were fighting, you will not be able to tell which one bit you. It’s the law of nature,” Nzili said.
The union officials and the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) were expected back in the Industrial Court on Monday morning to report back to Justice Linnet Ndolo on the progress of their negotiations.