The Court of Appeal on Thursday awarded teachers a 60 per cent pay increase beginning August, leaving the government with a Sh14 billion budget hole it must fill in a month.
Judges Mohammed Warsame, Sankale ole Kantai and Jamila Mohammed told the government to increase teachers’ pay by between 50 per cent and 60 per cent starting next month until its appeal against Industrial Court judge Nduma Nderi’s judgment that awarded the tutors a 160 per cent pay raise is heard and determined.
The decision means the government must find Sh14 billion within one month to cater for the increment, down from the initial Sh51 billion it needed to fully finance the Industrial Court’s award.
The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) had argued that the government does not have the money to honour the pay raise and that its officials were in danger of being arrested for contempt of court if they failed to implement the award.
The TSC, however, got a major relief after the court scrapped the July 30 deadline the government had been given to pay teachers Sh37 billion in backdated salary arrears under new terms of service issued last month.
The commission had moved to the appeals court seeking to stop the implementation of Justice Nderi’s judgment, which backdated the huge pay raise to 2013.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) had in response asked the court to dismiss the TSC’s application and compel the teachers’ employer to comply with Justice Nderi’s decision.
The judges said their ruling was informed by the quest to walk the middle ground in the dispute.
“Upon hearing both parties, and considering the circumstances before us, we make an order that a conditional stay of the judgment is hereby granted,” the judges ruled.
“This will, however, be in the terms that TSC, SRC and the A-G shall implement the increment ordered by Mr Justice Nderi in respect of the basic salary only with immediate effect from August 1, this year.”
The judges said that the TSC should continue paying the increment ordered above until final determination of the appeal, arguing that in such situations, it was best to walk the middle ground.
The 280,000 teachers currently account for 38 per cent of Kenya’s Sh418 billion public wage bill. A 60 per cent pay increment means a teacher in P1 job group G, the lowest paid category, will take home Sh26,707 up from Sh16,692 beginning next month.
The best paid teacher, a chief principal in job group R, will now earn Sh163,634, up from Sh109,089.
“A failure to comply with our order will lead to an automatic collapse of the appeal filed by TSC,” the judges ruled, ordering the parties to return to court on September 22 for a hearing.
Justice Nderi’s award was based on a working document that the teachers’ employer had prepared on September 9, 2014 as the tutors prepared for a strike.
The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kuppet have since January been engaged in court battles with the TSC and the Sarah Serem-led Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) over their pay.
The TSC had earlier said it was ready to pay teachers Sh9.3 billion in house and hardship allowances as well as the newly introduced leave allowance starting July 1 this year.
But teachers rejected the package and instead insisted on a raise in basic salaries, prompting the court case. The government insisted that it had no additional offer to make to the teachers.
The TSC maintained that the teachers’ demands were not sustainable in the current economic situation and that under the new Constitution the teachers no longer have power to negotiate new pay as that is the SRC’s mandate.
The teachers’ employer on Wednesday told the Court of Appeal that it was ready to engage teachers through their two unions in a bid to reach an amicable settlement.
The teachers have through Kuppet challenged the proposal to have the SRC review their pay, arguing that they are not State officers as defined by the Constitution.
Knut and Kuppet had earlier filed a memorandum with the Industrial Court seeking a 300 per cent pay increase but Justice Nderi said in his ruling that the demand would increase teachers’ basic wage bill from Sh119 billion to Sh360 billion.
The 300 per cent pay increase demand would have resulted in Sh118 billion for house allowances, Sh36 billion for leave allowances and Sh72 billion for responsibility allowances, taking the teachers’ cumulative wage bill to Sh725 billion.