Teachers protest new order on public workers pay talks
Posted Tuesday, July 31 2012 at 21:26
Kenya may be headed for another season of industrial unrest as the government moves to terminate pending collective bargain agreements with its employees during the transition to a new constitutional dispensation.
The looming labour market war is rooted in the Salaries and Remuneration Commission’s (SRC) recent directive to public employers to adjust expiry dates for standing collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) to June 2013, in preparation for the negotiation and signing of new ones to be reviewed every four years.
“All public service organisations should immediately commence remuneration analysis, collective bargaining negotiations and submit proposals for verification by the Commission by December 2012,” SRC chairperson Sarah Serem said in a public notice.
But civil servants have reacted angrily to the announcement, insisting through their trade unions on full implementation of outstanding salary awards.
Tuesday, the 250,000-member Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) warned of industrial action should the government discard existing CBAs dating back to 1997.
“It is another ploy by the government to avoid paying arrears of up to Sh50 billion that have accrued to teachers since the CBAs were signed,” Knut chairman Wilson Sossion told the Business Daily.
The CBAs that the then ruling party Kanu hurriedly signed with teachers in the run up to the 1997 General Election has been the cause of one of Kenya’s longest running trade disputes.
The deal includes housing, medical, commuting and hardship allowances and is the basis on which the union has threatened to disrupt the reopening of schools in September should the government fail to honour its promise for a 300 per cent pay increase.
“This is not negotiable. The only way the government can terminate the current CBAs this fiscal year is by paying up all pending awards by June 2013,” said Mr Sossion.
Public finance experts said the government is unlikely to meet the teachers’ demands, citing the tight transitional budget before it.
In his 2012/13 Budget speech, Finance minister Robinson Githae raised the education budget by Sh19.2 billion to Sh233.1 billion.
Teachers’ salaries, which consume the bulk of Kenya’s education budget, got Sh118.7 billion of the total, covering mainly the planned recruitment of additional 10,000 teachers.
The Salaries and Remuneration Commission is one of the new constitutional institutions that came to life early this year and with the mandate of setting and reviewing salaries and benefits of all public officers.
Each government agency currently has its own salary grades – mostly inherited from the colonial state – causing huge disparities in pay that has been a source of discontentment and low morale in the public service.