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Strike in week 3 as teachers, government dig in

KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion. Photo/ FILE

KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion. Photo/ FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 14 – The nationwide teachers strike entered its third week Monday even as the stalemate between the government and unions over the 50 to 60 percent pay increase awarded by the courts continues.

Speaking during the Capital in The Morning show, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Wilson Sossion indicated that the union will protect the rights of teachers even if it involves being in serious conflict with the government.

Sossion pointed out that the government, including President Uhuru Kenyatta, need to respect the ruling of the court on the pay increase saying ignoring it is a threat to the country’s entire work force.

“We’ll protect our rights even if it means bringing the country to its knees. This threat to the court ruling is a threat to the entire work force. In a society that is just, even the President respects the ruling of the court,” he stated.

He further encouraged teachers to maintain their stance and not to be cowed by sack threats.

“The country is operating a budget of Sh2.2 trillion. What is it that teachers have been granted by the courts? 50 to 60 percent offer for one phase which is conditional. The arrears and allowances have been stayed for further hearings in the court. What teachers deserve to be awarded is only Sh1.3 billion per month,” he said.

He said of this amount, Sh900mn will go directly to teachers while Sh400mn will go to taxes.

While claiming that the President was being misadvised on the availability of funds, Sossion urged the Teachers Service Commission and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to be sincere in stating the facts on teachers pay.

“It is too late in the day to advance any argument and to cheat the Executive. This is a tragedy that government advisors and technocrats are cheating the executive. Once you cheat the Executive to make statements that are against the rule of law, then indeed, you are creating a banana republic. Indeed, these are court orders,” he stated.

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He further maintained that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission does not determine the salaries of teachers since they are not listed as State officers.

“The buck stops with the government and if it could engage us meaningfully and very well and we sign Collective Bargaining Agreements, we have no interest in this. But look at the belligerence of the government and they way they are taking us. Even if you look at the matter of the court, they are the ones who took us to court instead of engaging us at the social table,” he said.

“The government is engaging in mischief and the grand talk of the wage bill being so huge that it is going to compromise development is nonsense. Development of the human resource is bigger development than development of all other forms of infrastructure. This is where the rubber meets the road and we are not going to give in.”

On Sunday, the union stated that it’s not discouraged by recent remarks by President Kenyatta that his government will not honour Court ruling to pay teachers a 50- 60 percent pay increment.

READ: ‘We are just warming up for strike’, KNUT tells Govt

Speaking after the KNUT National Executive Council meeting, Chairman Mudzo Nzili said teachers will push on with the strike that will Monday roll into the third week.

He accused Education CS Jacob Kaimenyi and Teachers Service Commission of misleading the President on the issue.

The KNUT Chairman said the teachers respected the call by Deputy President William Ruto to be patient for salary increase.

President Kenyatta had stated that the demands made by teachers are unsustainable and likely to create imbalance in the public service.

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The Head of State pointed out that the public service pay harmonisation is being carried out with constitutional bodies which must be respected.

He spoke even as Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery warned of legal action against teachers found disrupting learning in schools.

The Federation of Kenya Employers on its part emphasised the need for dialogue to end the ongoing teachers strike impasse which has paralysed learning in public schools.

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