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There is no reason to deny public servants pay increase

OPINION
By Wilson Sossion | July 19th 2021
Wilson Sossion.

Collective bargaining which results in the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is acknowledged as an instrument of social justice by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Thus, ILO member states are obligated to respect, promote and realise the recommendations arrived at during collective bargaining processes.

In respect to Kenya’s situation, we focus on ILO Conventions Numbers 91, 154 and 163 which specifically elaborate on collective bargaining recommendations. This is in regard to the two-year salary review freeze directive for all government employees.

A CBA, which is borne out of collective bargaining, provides a greater degree of predictability for employers in such areas as salaries, allowances and related entitlements, allowing employers to plan better.

A CBA with monetary gains is highly valued as the money component improves the living conditions of workers and their families.

More importantly, this gives the public sector a leg up by fostering a more positive working environment and creating industrial peace.

The rise in the cost of living has eroded public servants’ purchasing power. In addition, the low basic pay limits public servants’ access to credit facilities and decent pension upon retirement. This is the reason why the call for salary increment in the 2021/2025 CBAs is important.

Stagnation in the same job group has resulted in many public servants, including teachers, police officers and health practitioners, attaining the maximum salary within the job group. There are also wide salary differentials between the lowest and highest paid public servants which we hoped the job evaluation exercise conducted by SRC would address, and accordingly be factored in the new CBAs.

Worst, the move by the government to suspend pay increment to public servants will disadvantage workers who will be retiring from service between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2025 as they will still be on the same job group, hence their retirement packages and pension will be computed based on old salary scales.

Thus, the salary review freeze in the public sector under the guise of a non-performing economy due to Covid-19 is unacceptable considering that, as directed by SRC, a proposal for Sh83 billion had been worked out for public servants of which Sh33 billion was to be allocated TSC for the 2021/2025 CBA. The figure which was computed at the height of the pandemic was initially accommodated by the Treasury only to be rejected months later.

The government should not deny workers a raise on the pretext of a bad economy induced by Covid-19 pandemic. The National Treasury has projected the economy will grow at 6.6 per cent. If anything, workers are covered by an agreement that “pay increments are effected in line with projected inflation.”

Denying public servants salary review over IMF conditions should not be entertained — Kenya is a sovereign state and should not be tied to such policies that will hurt the country’s human resource.

- Mr Sossion is a member of Parliamentary Committees on Education and Labour  

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