Teachers issue new pay demand as unions seek CBA talks resumption

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) Secretary General Collins Oyuu. February 22, 2023. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Teachers’ unions have pitched a fresh case for salaries review, days after the government hinted at a pay hike for all public servants. Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and the Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) argue that it is time to return to the negotiation table to give teachers the best pay deal.

The Standard has established that the two unions want pay talks under the 2021-2025 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) kick-started, to negotiate the best deal for their members. This new push, however, comes just days after President William Ruto announced a pay rise for all public servants.

The State approved a seven to 10 per cent salary increment for civil servants beginning July 1.

Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) also released results of harmonised salaries in the public sector, where teachers would be the greatest beneficiaries.

SRC Chairperson Lyn Mengich said the teaching service would take the lion’s share of the amount being Sh9.1 billion annually.

She said the increment for teachers amounts to 40 per cent of the total figure, in the broader plan to harmonise salaries to international standards.

But even with these, The Standard established that the unions seem to be pushing for a structured way of arriving at the actual figures that would benefit their members in specific job groups. In a letter to the teachers’ employer, Kuppet has demanded an urgent meeting to fine-tune the pay rise.

Union Secretary General Akello Misori wants the meeting convened to reopen the 2021-2025 CBA talks that were suspended.

In his letter dated July 3, 2023, Misori wrote to the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) Chief Executive Nancy Macharia expressing concern over delays in bettering the terms of the agreement. ‘‘In light of the President’s pronouncement on Friday, June 30, we wish to request an urgent meeting to re-open negotiations for a new CBA,’’ Misori said.

The union wants TSC to open discussions that will bring them back to the negotiating table and help craft improved terms of service for its members. “We would appreciate a meeting at the earliest convenience of the commission but in any case, not later than two weeks of this writing, given the urgency of the teachers’ pay demands,’’ Misori said.

Issues raised 

In its letter dated July 4, 2023, TSC through the Commission’s legal officer Cavin Anyuor said they are considering the request. ‘‘We acknowledge receipt of the letter. The Commission is interrogating the issues raised therein and will respond in due course,’’ Anyuor said on behalf of the Commission’s boss.

Misori however said the meeting is long overdue and will unlock the deal that was shelved two years back by the SRC. In its earlier proposal under the CBA, Kuppet asked for a salary raise of between 30 and 70 per cent for the highest-paid workers and the lowest earners respectively.

This was when they signed a non-monetary CBA drawing uproar from teachers. In the CBA talks that were suspended, Kuppet wanted the lowest-paid teacher to earn Sh59,425 up from the present Sh34, 955.

The union also demanded that teachers falling under the highest-paid bracket take home Sh153,715 up from the current Sh118,242.

Speaking earlier, Knut Secretary General Collins Oyuu said they would push for higher salary demand that will see the pay of the least paid teacher (job group B5) increase from Sh27,195 to Sh43,513.

If implemented, Oyuu said the highest-paid teachers (job group D5) will have their salaries increase from Sh157,656 to Sh252,249.

Oyuu said that in July 2021, the Unions in the public sector signed a cashless CBA out of the advice by SRC for non-monetary CBAs due to the effects of Covid-19 on the country’s economy. Return to the CBA negotiation table means that Kuppet would also table their list of demands, which included a raft of allowances that they wanted to form part of the talks with TSC.

Among them was commuter allowance raised from Sh5,000 to Sh8,500 and from Sh16,000 to Sh20,800 for the lowest and highest paid teachers respectively, which translates to a rise of between 30-70 per cent.

The union also wanted leave allowance, which currently ranges from Sh6,000 to Sh10,000 for the lowest and highest paid teachers, made equivalent to one-month salary for every grade. Also in their demands, Kuppet wanted teachers’ risk allowance for science teachers, starting from Sh5,465 for the lowest paid and Sh30,587 for the highest paid.

SRC directive

Speaking to The Standard, Misori Wednesday, July 5, said that since the last agreement was rejected on grounds of the SRC directive, nothing stands in their way to get the increment.

‘‘Our proposal included a financial component but the Commission beseeched us to consider the advice given by the SRC to freeze on salary reviews of civil servants,’’ Misori said.

Misori said teachers have suffered for the last two years after they were denied the perks by the State. ‘‘Teachers’ gains in the last six years have been ring-fenced in the current CBA which requires urgent review. We must improve the agreement so that we break even on the demands we had raised,” Misori said.

Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers Chairman Peter Sitienei urged the government to pay special attention to teachers in special schools, saying they go out of their way in transforming the lives of the society. ‘‘We welcome the opportunity to explore several avenues that will be customised to our circumstances,’’ Sitienei said. Oyuu said the union is pushing for the TSC to make a counteroffer to meet teachers’ demands as the country transitions to JSS under the competency-based curriculum.

“We are happy with President William Ruto’s recent pronouncement which will open a window for fresh negotiations. I know we will strike a deal and strengthen the CBA 2021-2025 to be better,’’ Oyuu said.

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