Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Knut rejects Sh13.4bn payrise in three phases

"The government must take up this matter quickly and unlock the stalemate. We shall not even accept the harmonisation of the salaries” Knut chairman, Wilson Sossion. Photo/ANTHONY OMUYA

"The government must take up this matter quickly and unlock the stalemate. We shall not even accept the harmonisation of the salaries” Knut chairman, Wilson Sossion. Photo/ANTHONY OMUYA  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BENJAMIN MUINDI bmuindi@ke.nationmedia.com

Kenya National Union of Teachers has rejected a Sh13.4 billion offer by the government, which was to be implemented in three phases.

At the same time, the school term is to be extended to allow students recover lost time. Read (Court seeks solution to teachers' strike)

Education minister Mutula Kilonzo has asked teachers, who have been on a work boycott for three weeks, to report back to work this morning.

The deal was offered by a Cabinet sub-committee set up last week to draw up a solution for the teachers’ strike which is in its third week.

In a letter addressed to Kuppet and Knut, the committee proposes to harmonise teachers’ salaries with those of other civil servants in three phases.

In the first phase, teachers would be paid Sh4.5 billion effective July this year. The other two phases, worth a total of Sh8.9 billion, would be paid in January and July next year.

“It is difficult to accommodate the Sh13.4 billion recommended for harmonisation of teachers’ salaries in the current financial year,” Finance minister Njeru Githae said in the letter.

“However, in order to break the stalemate it is recommended that the harmonisation of teachers’ salaries be implemented in phases,” he added.

The deal would raise the salary of the lowest paid teacher by Sh500 and that of the highest paid by Sh4,000.

The lowest paid teacher (job group F) earns Sh13,750 while the highest paid, a chief principal at job group R, is paid Sh120,270.

The unions are demanding that salaries be raised by 300 per cent and Legal Notice 534 of 1997 on allowances be handled by the Teachers Service Commission and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, respectively.

On Wednesday, Knut chairman Wilson Sossion dismissed the offer as “a mockery” and vowed that the strike would continue until the government met the union’s demands.

“We want to advise the teachers of the country that this strike is not about to end. We’ve not received any constructive response from the government,” Mr Sossion said at a press briefing at Knut headquarters in Nairobi.

He dismissed the Cabinet sub-committee offer, adding that the team was not committed to ending the crisis.

The government also offered to revoke Legal Notice 16 of 2003, “subject to commitment from the union to renegotiate Legal Notice 534 of 1997.”

Legal Notice 16 amended the provisions of six allowances for teachers from being a percentage of the basic salaries and varied them to job groups and the location of the particular teacher.

But according to Cabinet sub-committee, “the demands relating to the salary increase and allowances were new demands that ought to be subjected to a structured negotiation process under the TSC Act.”

The committee further said that the demands by the teachers were not affordable and sustainable “given the current level of national wage bill.”

“Further, the demand for increased salaries and allowances is coming at a time when we have concluded the budget 2012/2013 financial year.”

But Mr Sossion asked the government to “incorporate our demands in the supplementary budget or even use the contingency fund.”

Education minister Mutula Kilonzo said the Cabinet sub-committee had agreed that students be allowed to recover the time lost during the strike.

The Cabinet is expected to endorse the decision at a meeting to be chaired by President Kibaki at State House this morning.

It will also deliberate on the pay offer.

If the school term is extended, then it means that students could be in school taking exams for part of the December holidays.

The Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec) will meet the sub-committee to discuss the possibility of adjusting the exam timetable, the minister said.

“Knec will also appear before the Cabinet sub-committee to discuss how the exam time-table can be pushed back to enable the candidates complete the syllabus,” he added.

“We cannot afford to see the future of our children destroyed. The lost contact time between the learners and the teachers will have to be recovered.”

Already, the Knec chief executive Paul Wasanga has warned that pushing back the exams to allow students to catch up with lost lessons would have “serious implications”.

The administration of tests, marking and release of results is done under a very strict timetable, Mr Wasanga had said.

This years’ exams are scheduled to start on October 4, with Home Science practical followed by other practical tests and optional papers which run up to the end of the month.

Theory papers start on November 5.

Some 820,255 Standard Eight pupils will sit the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in more than 23,000 schools.

Another 437,782 will sit the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in more than 7,000 schools countrywide.

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