A few days ago, the Supreme Court finally delivered the much-anticipated verdict on the long-standing salary increment dispute pitting teachers’ unions against the Teachers Service Commission. In its ruling to an application filed by the latter, the judges upheld the verdict of the Employment and Labour Court to award the teachers a 50 to 60 per cent pay rise and orders issued by the Court of Appeal on the same matter.
TSC had moved to the Court of Appeal under a certificate of urgency, but the judges declined to issue the orders sought. Instead, they asked the officials to pay the teachers their salaries based on the new rates as they wait for the hearing and determination of the case they had filed.
It is no doubt that the decision of the Supreme Court was indeed a game changer. It has since completely changed the narrative on this matter.
In light of this, TSC, National Treasury and the Executive have no other option other than to explore ways of raising the required monies and pay the teachers.
However, it is worth noting the SC did not rule out hearing an appeal if it was properly filed and this explains why TSC is preparing to return to the same court and challenge the awards.
Soon after the Supreme Court judges maintained that the court lacked the jurisdiction to handle TSC application and asked the officials to respect and abide by the decisions of the lower courts, I had a chat with a close friend of mine. The first question he asked me is. Tell me, where will the Government get the money to pay teachers? The State has all along stood its ground that it does not have money to pay teachers.
Well, well all know the Government does not have money of its own and it entirely relies on local revenues, borrowing from well endowed foreign nations and donor funding to run and govern the country.
Therefore, it means Kenyans will have to brace themselves for hard times as the top State officers have already given strong hints that they will place the burden on their shoulders. Besides raising taxes, there are high prospects that the State will cut down the monies allocated to fund major infrastructural development projects in order to raise funds.
The pay deal which is to be paid in four years starting this year will cost the Government Sh73 billion. Every month the state will avail Sh1.3 billion and Sh17 billion in a year.
Notably, the ruling by Labour Court came at a time when a section of civil servants have also threatened to down tools and press for better pay. It is therefore feared the move would open a floodgate of similar lawsuits.
This raises a pertinent question. In the event other civil servants make good their threats and their prayers are granted, where will this leave the Government? Will it be able to handle the new challenge? Well, many Kenyans believe this will leave the Government with two options. To pay or disown the rulings a move that would be translated as a serious violation of the Constitution. If it opts to pay, most of the Government operations would grind to a halt.
I hope officials of the teachers’ unions will exercise sobriety and allow the voice of reason to prevail during this time when TSC and other State organs are working round the clock to raise monies to pay teachers the new salaries.
I would not expect them to direct teachers not to resume their duties when public schools reopen for third term.