Friday, June 21, 2013

Why workers could miss out on pay deals

Kuppet members hold placards as they march the streets of Kisumu to demand for better pay from the government. Push for higher salaries by civil servants could be dealt a blow if workers’ unions fail to seal a pay deal worth Sh63 billion. Photo/TOM OTIENO

Kuppet members hold placards as they march the streets of Kisumu to demand for better pay from the government. Push for higher salaries by civil servants could be dealt a blow if workers’ unions fail to seal a pay deal worth Sh63 billion. Photo/TOM OTIENO  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By SAMUEL SIRINGI ssiringi@ke.nationmedia.com

Hopes of more than 400,000 teachers and civil servants receiving their pending pay deals under current salary agreements could be dashed unless they are implemented by month-end.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) requires all employers to conclude the current Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBAs) by June 30.

The commission led by Ms Sarah Serem directed last year all current CBAs to “expire on June 30, 2013 to allow room for new ones with a four-year review cycle”.

“The Commission’s position is that it is the employers who are under obligation to fulfill any agreements they may have committed themselves to implementing (by June 30),” Ms Serem said on Friday.

She went on: “The Commission is not in a position to know all the commitments entered into between employers and employees.”

With less than a week to the deadline, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) is pushing for a Sh47 billion allocation from the Treasury to salvage the 1997 pay deal, which could all but expire in eight days.

The money is meant to pay allowances to 278,000 teachers.

On Friday, Union of Kenya Civil Servants secretary-general Tom Odege asked the government to implement a Sh16.2 billion pay for its members to cover a CBA that should have been effected before the end of this month.

Speaking on Friday, Knut chairman Wilson Sossion said the union was aware of the SRC deadline, which “makes it the more reason for us to demand that our allowances be paid out at the end of this month or in July”.

“We are demanding that the billions allocated for the laptop project be reallocated to pay our allowances to ensure we conclude the long standing pay riddle,” Mr Sossion said.

He said teachers would not accept their agreement to be washed away by the “Serem orders” and promised “we will fight until it is all paid up”. (READ: Unions defy Ruto and set stage for strike in schools)

The civil servants union had presented CBA proposals to the government, which it expected to be implemented as another pay rise for the workers was due, Mr Odege said.

“We don’t care whether it was dully signed, but all we know is that we are to receive it before the current CBA expires as directed by Mrs Serem,” he said.

He asked the government to improve terms of service for public servants and build schools before effecting the laptop project.

The SRC directive dated last July 4 seeks to adopt a four-year review cycle from within days — July 1. Ms Serem had directed all public servants organisations, including parastatals, to start their CBA negotiations and make proposals to the commission by December 31, 2012, but Attorney General Githu Muigai sought to exempt some State agencies.

“From the definition of the terms public service and state organ, a person who is an employee of a state corporation or a member of the board or council of a state corporation cannot be considered to be employed in the public service because a state corporation is not a state organ by virtue of not having been established under the Constitution,” Prof Muigai said in a letter to the Secretary of the State Corporations Advisory Committee.

Article 260 of the Constitution defines a public officer as “any state officer or any person other than state officer who holds a public office.”

It goes on to define public office as “an office in the national, a county government or the public service, if the remuneration and benefits of the office are payable directly from the Consolidated Fund or directly out of money provided by Parliament.”

The definition means that Prof Muigai’s opinion has not effectively resolved the disagreement on whether the SRC has powers to determine the pay of parastatal employees.

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