The Government does not have money to increase salaries of public servants, President Uhuru Kenyatta said yesterday.
He told public servants to brace themselves for tough times ahead, saying the country’s economy is facing many challenges due to corruption and an unbearable wage bill that can no longer support pay increments.
Uhuru who spoke in Kisii, where he was accompanied by his deputy William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga, told those agitating for pay hikes to hold their horses until the challenges are addressed.
The President spoke at the Kisii County Referral and Teaching Hospital on the backdrop of the ongoing standoff between the Government and nurses who have been on strike for weeks now to push for salary increment.
Uhuru warned against what he termed as ‘a new song of salary increments’ in an announcement that will not be received well by trade unions.
And although he did not directly refer to the striking nurses, the President said he was alarmed by the growing chorus for pay hikes.
“Let us abandon the habit of crying for more salaries. Let us stop thinking about our stomachs without serving the people,” said Uhuru.
He added: “Let us join our hands and fix our economy by fighting corruption. Let us stop politicising corruption. Let us reject those who run to their communities when faced with corruption charges. Let them carry their own crosses.”
It is Raila who first complained about the calls for salary increment by public servants, saying Treasury is weighed down by high wage bills both at the national and county governments.
“There are calls for industrial action everywhere. Today it is nurses, even Atwoli (Cotu secretary general) will some come with his own. People are demanding higher pay from the same kitty which is not getting any additional money,” said Raila.
He pleaded with the nurses to resume duty to end the suffering of patients in public hospitals.
Uhuru, Ruto and Raila said they were committed to uniting Kenyans, with the DP saying he supports the handshake between his boss and ODM leader.
Before driving into the hospital’s compound, the leaders addressed residents who had lined up along the roads.
“I have come here with Raila to preach peace and unity. All these projects we are talking about will not succeed unless we are united,” said Uhuru.
He added: “Our main aim is to ensure no more blood is shed in Kenya because of politics. We must stop disruptive politics of hatred. The hospitals we are building must never be used again to treat victims of political violence.”
Ruto said he fully supports the handshake, noting that it has united Kenyans.
“When we took power in 2013, we promised to unite Kenyans. The President proved it by shaking hands with Raila. This is the best legacy the President will leave for Kenyans,” said Ruto.
Also present was area Governor James Ongwae among other leaders.