By M.T. Akelo Misori
As the teachers’ strike enters the third week, Kenyans justifiably feel disappointed by the lethargic government response.
We teachers share this disappointment, and were startled by the government’s simultaneous implementation of precipitate salary changes that compound efforts to achieve equity, competitiveness and efficiency in the public service.
From January when we first served the employer with our salary demands, the government has made many missteps in its engagement with teachers, but last week’s increase of allowances for permanent secretaries is by far the most egregious.
With the new increases, a permanent secretary will now earn about Sh800,000 per month, the equivalent of the gross earnings for 20 graduate teachers at current scales.
With due respect to the huge responsibilities PSs shoulder, such salaries are simply unsustainable in our economy.
The old rationale for such sky-high salaries, like that PSs are few, just does not hold any water. For once a senior public officer is given a hefty package, others in similar positions use it as the new benchmark, leading to pay rises for top ranks that distort the labour market and undermine the country’s budget capacities.
This latest increase for PSs was justified by the need to bring them to par with other similarly-remunerated senior officials.
The extortionist salaries’ regime for senior officials began with the high pay in the then Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Act – ostensibly to insulate KACC director from corruption. With hindsight, the gain Kenya made was not in the fight against corruption, but the exorbitant salaries now demanded by all constitutional commissions, MPs, judges and senior public servants like PSs.
In appreciation of the government’s financial constrains, Kuppet conceded some ground from our initial legitimate demand of complete harmonisation of salaries and allowances for teachers and civil servants — a goal government agreed to in principle in 2009 and 2011.
This last weekend, we informed the ad hoc committee addressing the strike of this irreducible minimum- harmonisation of basic pay and commuter backdated to July 2012. If this is granted, we are willing to push other allowances for structured negotiations. The committee chaired by Education PS Prof George Godia will communicate this position to the cabinet sub-committee tasked with resolving the salary dispute.
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