TSC and teachers’ unions meet over pay demands

KUPPET Chairman Amboko Milemba (left) and KNUT Secretary General Wilson Sossion. [PHOTO: BEVERLYNE MUSILI/STANDARD]

NAIROBI: Rival teachers’ unions and their employer are scheduled to meet Saturday to resolve the pay impasse threatening to paralyse learning at the start of the new term next week.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post-Primary Teachers (Kuppet) have fired early warning shots that there will be no let up until the matter is disposed of conclusively.

The Ministry of Education, in a rejoinder yesterday, appealed to parents to ignore the strike threat saying avenues for dialogue had not been exhausted. The ministry is adamant schools will open on Monday.

“They (unions) have asked teachers to keep off schools contrary to the instructions detailed in the circular...The instruction from the union is coming in the wake of negotiations which are already underway to discuss union demands with Teachers Service Commission and other relevant arms of government through Committee on Terms and Conditions of Service for Teachers.

“We are optimistic that the ongoing negotiations will bear fruit and are therefore requesting the unions to give dialogue a chance to allow stability in the education sector so that learning is not disrupted,” the ministry said in a statement signed by senior education official, EA M Khaoya.

Knut ‘postponed’ the strike towards the end of third term last year, which enabled candidates sit the national examinations.

The strike threat is compounded further by the confusion on school fees, which a taskforce - appointed by the government, recommended massive reduction that would lower the cost of education.

Speaking to The Standard on Saturday, Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion accused the government of lacking the goodwill to dispose of the matter that has dragged on for more than six months.

After the Knut issued a seven-day strike notice last week, the TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni invited teachers to round-table talks to avert the industrial action. Teachers want 200 per cent salary increment.

“We are going to attend the meeting. But I can assure you it won’t resolve the impasse. There is no commitment on the part the government and its agency (TSC). What they are doing is a public relations gimmick to hoodwink the public that there is goodwill. It is just a public reaction to our demand, but there is no faith in their promises,” Mr Sossion said.

Unlike in September when the public came to the defence of the ministry to avert disruption of national examinations, it is now sympathetic to teachers’ demands.

Kuppet has gone a step further and asked members to boycott Form One selection scheduled to commence in the third week of this month. Kuppet Secretary-General Akelo Misori told The Standard on Saturday that the exercise would be disrupted unless TSC responds positively to allowance and pay-rise demands.

“What the public should be asking is why are teachers perennially going on strike? It is because somebody has slept on the job. TSC should have charted a way of motivating its workforce to avoid the kind of situation we are in at present,” Mr Misori says.

Sossion says the last time Knut engaged TSC on teachers’ salary increment demands, “they mishandled the issue.” He accuses TSC of inviting strangers to the talks whenever teachers threaten to go on strike.

“We hope what Lengoibini’s offer is not the same as what the Salaries Remuneration Commission (SRC) chair Sarah Serem had made public. If that is the offer he wants to table, there is no need for negotiations. We don’t want to be taken round in circles as has been the case in the past,” warns Sossion.

Ms Serem has proposed harmonisation of teachers remunerations with that of civil servants, which in effect would slash some of the allowance and salary increments the workforce in education sector are pushing for.

Lengoiboni would not respond to inquiries about how TSC plans to handle the strike threat. However, TSC public relations manager Kihumba Kimotho confirms there is an offer to be tabled Saturday.

“There is a definite offer we intend to table. These are negotiations; in negotiations you deal only with the tangibles, not speculation,” says Mr Kimotho. He, however, declined to discuss Knut and Kuppet threats to boycott the talks if the offer is pegged on proposals by SRC.

During Knut and Kuppet Annual General Meetings (AGM), held separately last year, they vowed to disrupt the school calendar unless they government gave in to their demands.

Teachers are pushing for leave and house allowances, which the State appears willing to grant in the next fiscal year. That translates to Sh4,000 for teachers in job group H (P1 certificate holder), while the highest or chief principals, in job group R, will get Sh10,000. P1 teachers will be entitled Sh5,700, while the highest paid teacher in Job Group T will pocket Sh60,000 in allowances.

Others are Approved Teachers Status (IV) Sh6,600; Graduate Approved (GAT) (III) Sh8,200; GAT (II) Sh10,900; GAT (I) Sh12,300, Senior GAT Sh14,650, Principal GAT (II) Sh17,100; Principal GAT (I); Sh12,300; Senior Principal Sh31,500; and Chief Principal Sh45,000.

However, Misori said the allowances were overdue and there is nothing to celebrate about “because they are teachers’ entitlements.”

“For a long time it had been argued that teachers do not need leave allowance because schools close three times in a year. But that does not mean teachers break from work. We have had instances where teachers have been interdicted when schools are closed. How do you explain such disciplinary actions?” poses Kuppet boss.