Civil servants have threatened to go on strike in two weeks if the Government does not pay their housing and hardship allowances totalling Sh11.7 billion.
The workers are unhappy that their employer has reneged on the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) signed on June 27, 2017.
Union of Kenya Civil Servants Acting Secretary General Jerry ole Kina said the civil servants were owed Sh7.2 billion in house allowance arrears and Sh4.5 billion in hardship allowance.
The union has threatened to call a work boycott in a fortnight unless the arrears are settled.
“The Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) has taken this route after many failed promises. Our members are suffering, yet our employer is quiet and unwilling to honour a legal pact that is in place,” said Mr Kina.
“We have observed a trend where the Government implements part of the CBA and starts employing underhand tactics and threats to union officials. This was the case during the 2012 CBA. We will not allow it under the 2017 CBA.”
The 2017 CBA, signed by then Public Service Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki on behalf of the Government and Tom Odege and John Nzau on behalf of the union, was witnessed by Jacob Omollo, an independent chairperson of the central negotiating committee.
“All the other provisions of the agreement have been implemented save for the housing and hardship allowances. This is impoverishing our 130,000 members given the rise in the cost of living,” Kina said.
According to the CBA, house allowance payable to all employees was to be harmonised according to the grade in all regions with effect from July 1, last year.
The strike notice is set to affect key Government services, including the medical and law fraternity, whose members are beneficiaries of the UKCS agreement.
“We have been engaging our employer from early last year but we have been taken in circles. We even petitioned the National Assembly who summoned the Public Service Commission (PSC) to explain why they haven’t paid. The commission was ordered to pay and it is worrying that it has disobeyed the CBA and Parliament,” Kina said.
According to the CBA, the lowest paid civil servants in Grades A-C working in Nairobi are to be paid Sh3,750 house allowance. Those in Grade D are entitled to Sh4,125 while those in grades E and F are to get Sh4,500.
Grades G and H are to get Sh6,750 while those in Grade J get Sh10,000, Grade K are to be paid Sh16,500 while those in grades L and M will earn Sh28,000. Civil servants in Nairobi under Grade N are entitled to Sh35,000 house allowance.
Those working in the county headquarters of Mombasa, Kisumu, Malindi, Kilifi, Lamu, Kwale and Naivasha are supposed to be paid a monthly house allowance of Sh3,125 as the lowest and Sh25,500 as the highest.
Civil servants in the county headquarters of Nyeri, Eldoret, Kericho, Kakamega, Kisii, Embu, Nanyuki, Nakuru, Lodwar and Garissa are to be paid from ShSh2,500 to Sh18,000.
Those in other county headquarters and all other areas are entitled to Sh2,250 as the lowest and Sh15,000 as the highest.
Kina also said that after the harmonisation of salaries and allowances by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (CRA) and based on their CBA, civil servants are to be paid hardship allowance equivalent to 30 per cent of their basic salary.
According to the CBA, the workers in Grade A should get the lowest monthly hardship allowance of Sh2,800 while the highest in Grade N should get Sh17,100.
Kina reiterated that the union would not allow 1.5 per cent to be deducted from its members’ pay for developing houses, as envisaged by the Government.
“This is a complicated issue. It is not as easy as the Government thinks it is. Workers’ salaries are their personal emoluments. No one can invade their salaries without their consent. We will oppose the tax through all available means.”
He told the Government to build houses with the money it had received from the UN and sell them to willing buyers.
“We are aware that the UN has given the Government Sh67 billion to build houses. Let it first build houses and sell them to those who want houses. We were robbed when NHIF contributions were forcefully deducted from our payslips. We will not allow this to happen again.”
Kina said there was no concrete strategy on how the housing levy would be managed.
“No one has done a needs assessment on what we want. No one has determined the ages of our members and whether or not they want houses. Some of them already have houses and we fear our money will be plundered.”