Kenya: Talks to end the teachers strike collapsed again yesterday after the Government rejected a Sh47 billion salary demand by representatives of secondary school teachers.
The Government insisted on a Sh9.3 billion deal for allowances, but the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) rejected. The Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) did the same on Tuesday. Labour Cabinet Secretary Kazungu Kambi termed the collapsed talks as “unfortunate” and regretted that the two-day talks with the two unions have failed to end the strike.
But he instructed all teachers to report to work immediately, noting that the industrial action remains illegal.
"The Government deems the strike action to be illegal, unjustified and therefore uncalled for as ruled by the Industrial Court. Those participating in it are breaking the law and risk dire consequences," said Kambi.
He said teachers who report for work would get adequate security.
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"All those who heed my call and report to work shall be given proper security, but those who decline shall face dire consequences," said Kambi.
This comes days after the teachers' employer threatened to withhold the salaries of those on strike.
The Standard also learnt yesterday that the Government plans to withhold the dues it remits to the two unions monthly.
Knut gets Sh120 million from TSC and Kuppet over Sh20 million.
"If these monies are frozen, operations of the two unions shall be effectively stalled," said an official familiar with Government strategy.
But Knut Secretary General Wilson Sossion dismissed the threats.
"They should have worked hard to resolve these issues long ago. They cannot continue to threaten teachers every time they go on strike," said Sossion.
He said the union has strategies to ensure the Government makes a better offer.
"The strike is now being run by the teachers themselves. Even if they arrest (Knut) branch or national officials, it shall still go on," said Sossion.
During the meeting yesterday, Kuppet officials are said to have demanded Sh4.7 billion for leave allowance and another Sh4.2 billion for responsibility allowance.
Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori said they rejected the Government's offer because it lacked a salary component.
Knut officials cited the same reason on Monday for the collapsed talks.
"We want to dispel rumours that we were to sign a deal with the Government. There was nothing close to that. What we have been given are just similar without a salary component and we reject it," said Misori.
He said Kuppet had lowered its salary demand from a 300 per cent increase to between 100 and 150 per cent.
"They never gave us anything and this means that the strike is on. We want to assure the teachers that there is no foreseeable agreement, and it is unfortunate that the Government has failed teachers," said Misori.
But Kambi claimed that the union partially accepted the Sh9.3 billion offer it tabled.
"The offer addressed the demand made by teachers including house allowance, hardship allowance and leave allowance. Besides, the union has also been offered house mortgage and car loan schemes as well as daily subsistence allowance for teachers from job group G and R," said Kambi.
The CS said the Government has so far harmonised several allowances for all civil servants to the tune of Sh16 billion, and warned that teachers are not unique to the benefits.
"These include harmonisation of commuter allowance, responsibility allowance, house allowance, leave allowance, hardship allowance, medical allowance, night out allowance, and special schools allowance," said Kambi.
He said the latest efforts by the Government are part of a series of offers and interventions implemented so far to improve welfare of the teachers.
"In 2009, the Government offered to harmonise basic salaries for all teachers in public learning schools. The phased arrangement was achieved in July 2012 and ever since teachers have been at par with other public servants. No teacher is disadvantaged in regard to their basic salary and other allowances as compared to other public servants," said Kambi.
But Misori said teachers are disappointed that no basic salary increment has been offered.
"We are shocked that Teachers Service Commission (TSC) still wants to undertake a jobs evaluation to be able to revise basic pay. They should have done this long time ago. Is it that they do not know what they pay teachers currently?" asked Misori.