State offers teachers Sh17bn to end strike

The government yesterday put a Sh17 billion deal on the table to end the teachers’ strike as union officials were ordered to appear in court to face contempt charges.

Monday July 8 2013

Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Wilson Sosion address the press at their offices on July 05, 2013. PHOTO/DENISH OCHIENG

Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Wilson Sosion address the press at their offices on July 05, 2013. PHOTO/DENISH OCHIENG  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By BENJAMIN MUINDI [email protected] AND BERNARD NAMUNANE [email protected]

The government on Monday put a Sh17 billion deal on the table to end the teachers’ strike as union officials were ordered to appear in court to face contempt charges.

Teachers Service Commission boss Gabriel Lengoiboni met officials of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) and Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) in a bid to reach an agreement, which will pave the way for resumption of learning in public schools across the country.

Mr Lengoiboni, however, did not reveal the details of the offer, which the government hopes will be agreed upon by the teachers, who have been agitating for increased allowances in line with a deal that was signed in 1997.

He said: “The government has a very lucrative offer for the teachers and I am hopeful it will be an acceptable proposal to enable children to go back to class.”

In a sign that the teachers might not get the Sh47 billion, which they had been clamouring for, he said that the government had stretched itself to get funds to meet their demands.

“Although the government had not budgeted for the demands of teachers in the current financial year, it has gone out of its way to ensure that the stalemate is resolved,” he said.

Casting aside the rivalry between Knut and Kuppet officials, he said the offer would meet the demands of both teams.

“The offer is spread across all the members of the teaching fraternity represented by Knut and Kuppet,” he said.

However, the Nation established that the proposal will see teachers get increased commuter, responsibility and special schools allowances, while medical cover will be provided by the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Said the proposal on medical allowance: “The commission is in advanced stage in signing an agreement with NHIF and the unions will be invited once the proposals are ready.”

On house allowance, it proposed: “Due to budgetary constraints, the government is not ready to harmonise house allowance at the moment in line with the demands of the union. It will be negotiated at a later date through the framework provided by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.”

Awaiting final decision

On employment of 20,000 Early Childhood Education teachers, TSC says it was awaiting the final decision on who between the national and county governments will be responsible for them.

The government argues it is not fiscally sustainable to meet the demands of teachers as captured in the 1997 agreement, or what is commonly known as Legal Notice 534 of 1997.

It says it will require Sh176 billion to meet teachers’ demands for higher salaries and allowances if the legal notice it to be implemented — Sh97.91 billion to pay their salaries and Sh78.33 billion to foot their new house allowances.

Add to this an estimated Sh4 billion, which will be used to employ 10,000 teachers, the government document showed.

Knut is demanding Sh47 billion for its members as part of the agreement signed 16 years ago. The agreement offers teachers house, medical and commuter allowances calculated at a percentage of their basic salaries. Other payments under the deal have been honoured over the years.

However, the government argues that it has met the teachers’ demands. For instance, it states that whereas the lowest paid teacher at Job Grade P2 F was earning a basic of Sh4,160 and a house allowance of Sh1,456 in 1997, it had increased to Sh14,520 and Sh3,500, respectively, by 2012.

For the highest paid teachers, the figures had increased from Sh23,925 and Sh8,375 in 1997 to Sh109,089 and Sh40,000 in 2012, respectively.

On Monday, Mr Lengoiboni said they were making good progress in negotiations in line with the court directive that they sit down with teachers’ unions and negotiate.

Speaking at the TSC headquarters, Knut chairman Wilson Sossion said they were following the correct procedure by sitting down with the TSC to negotiate for the rights of teachers.

“The union is pursuing a legitimate course and it is the right of teachers to participate in a strike granted by the Constitution. We attended the talks on invitation by the TSC and are yet to examine the government offer.

We are asking teachers to await communication on the strike depending on the outcome of the talks,” he said, adding, they will appear in court today after they had been served.

The meeting was convened by the TSC Remuneration Committee on Terms and Conditions of Teachers and was attended by Mr Lengoiboni, commissioner Cleopas Tirop,

Human Resource director Josephine Maundu and Knut officials Sossion (chairman), Mudzo Nzili (acting secretary-general), and Albanus Mutsiya (treasurer). Kuppet officials led by Mr Omboko Milemba (chairman) also attended.

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