Teachers warn of strike if pay deal talks are not resolved by October

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general Wilson Sossion. PHOTO | FILE
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general Wilson Sossion. PHOTO | FILE 

Teachers have warned they will go on strike ahead of the national examinations if talks on a new pay deal are not concluded by October, adding to the government’s woes as it struggles to put a lid on wages and keep control of the budget.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary general Wilson Sossion said that talks on the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that were supposed to start in July are yet to kick off. The CBA is supposed to cover the teachers’ pay and benefits for the period beginning July 2017 to 2021.

“Teachers have sacrificed a lot of ground for the good of the country and the CBA should be signed immediately. Accord teachers a reasonable pay to avert a standoff in schools come October,” Mr Sossion said in Uasin Gishu on Sunday.

The TSC employs about 290,000 teachers with the majority under the Knut and last year their pay of Sh160 billion accounted for 36 per cent of Kenya’s Sh450 billion public wage bill — which has risen from Sh278 billion in 2011.

The government has previously resisted Knut pay demands and termed them unsustainable. The Kenya Certificate of Primary Education is set to start on November 1 and end on November 3, with the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) starting on November 7 and ending November 30.

Mr Sossion accused the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) of delaying the pay talks, terming it an insincerity.
The strike threat comes less than two months after teachers’ unions signed a CBA for the period between July 2013 and June next year, mostly touching on allowances.

Stormy relations

The signing of the June CBA was hailed as a turning point in the stormy relations between teachers and TSC but the new strike threat could disrupt the school calendar and national exams for the second successive year.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has previously asked the TSC and the unions to be reasonable in their discussions to avoid constant interruptions to learning and exams.

“The two must look for a way that will ensure the education of Kenyan children is not put at risk, especially when they are doing their exams,” he said in June. Teachers went on a five-week strike during third term last year, affecting the preparations and sitting of KCSE.

The tutors wanted a 50-60 per cent increase in their basic salary. The teachers’ unions are keen on the new CBA talks which are expected to cover an increase in the tutors’ basic salary. A P1 teacher’s starting salary is currently set between Sh16,692 and Sh21,304 which Mr Sossion said is lower than what TSC pays other employees.

“The glaring pay disparities indicate that there is no need for more negotiations in regard to pay for teachers. TSC should correct the anomaly and if the government do not sign it, we will demand a 500 per cent pay increment which should be paid before the next election,” said Mr Sossion.