Retired President Daniel arap Moi has dissociated himself from the teachers’ pay deal signed 16 years ago during his presidency.
Speaking to the Sunday Nation through his Press Secretary Lee Njiru, the former president said the pay deal was a collective government decision which had nothing to do with him as an individual.
“This thing should not be personalised. When he (President Moi) handed over to his successor in 2002, he passed on all the instruments of power, including the pleasures and the agonies. When you hand over, you hand over lock, stock and barrel. He did not retain anything that was government’s,” said Mr Njiru.
In 1997, then Head of Public Service Phares Kuindwa, Treasury Permanent Secretary Simeon Lesirma and Solicitor- General Aaron Ringera signed the Legal Notice 534 at State House that awarded teachers between 105 and 200 per cent salary increments. Implementation was to be in phases over a five-year period starting from July 1, 1997.
“It was not Moi as a person. It was signed by officers of the government, not President Moi,” Mr Njiru said.
At the signing ceremony, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) was represented by Secretary-General Ambrose Adongo, chairman John Katumanga and Treasurer John Bosco Mboga.
Prior to the deal, Education minister Joseph Kamotho had vehemently refused to budge on the teachers’ pay demands. But with a General Election fast approaching, President Moi, perhaps afraid of losing the collective vote of teachers, summoned the Knut officials to State House.
Mr Njiru, however, insists President Moi’s actions were not dictated by the impending poll but the interest of the country.
“This was a government decision, and at the time, government did what it could to deal with the situation. This (the strike) is a policy matter and there is a Cabinet in place to deal with it as they deem fit.”
Mr Kamotho, despite being the Education minister, was left out of the meeting, even though he later gazetted the legal notice. Knut maintains the minister did not have to be present at the signing of the 1997 agreement.
“Whether the minister was present or not, who appoints the ministers anyway? The president is the head of government and can exercise the powers of the minister. Our employer was also present.
It is a non-issue to start claiming that a minister was present or not. We negotiated with the government and our employer, period!” said Knut chairman Wilson Sossion.
Since the October 1997 strike, teachers returned to the the streets in 1998 and in July last year. The 2012 strike was motivated by their unsuccessful demand to have Legal Notice 16 — which revoked the 1997 deal — degazetted.
Teachers appear to time their strikes to either coincide with a looming General Election or just before national examinations begin, which often results in a deal. But Knut denies being motivated by prevailing politics with Mr Sossion insisting that teachers only take to the streets when they feel their rights have been violated.
“Our industrial actions have no correlation with elections or national exams. In fact, if you recall, the strikes come after the budget has been presented, and the government has failed to allocate funds for allowances or salaries that have been awarded,” said Mr Sossion.
He added: “Whenever we realise that the Treasury has ignored us in the budget then we start preparing teachers.”
Knut also maintains that the venue where the agreement was signed is not an issue as long as it was signed within the Republic of Kenya.
The legal notice awarded the teachers house allowances of 35 per cent in the first year. This would rise to 45 per cent by 1998/99 and a final 50 per cent by 2000.
The teachers also got medical allowances of 15 per cent in the first year which would then be raised to 20 per cent by 1999. In addition, Knut also bargained for and got responsibility allowances of 100 per cent of the prevailing rates in 1997 and 400 per cent by 2000.
The responsibility allowances would then plateau at 500 per cent by 2001 and subsequent years. They would also earn a special allowance payable to teachers in special education institutions of 10 per cent from July 1, 1997.
Teachers in hardship areas would also draw hardship allowances of 30 per cent of the minimum pay from 1997.
Legal Notice 534 also awarded teachers a commuter allowance of 10 per cent from 1998, accommodation allowance of between Sh600 for the lowest paid teacher and Sh2,000 for the chief principal per night; transfer allowances equivalent to one month’s gross basic salary and advances to buy motor vehicles.
In December 2002, a memorandum of agreement reaffirmed that the government would “irrevocably honour the teachers’ salary award as contained in Legal Notice 534 of 1997”. The MoU was signed just three weeks to the General Election in which then opposition Narc candidate Mwai Kibaki trounced Kanu’s candidate and current President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Appending their signatures to the memorandum were Mr Ibrahim Hussein and Mr Benjamin Sogomo for Teachers’ Service Commission, Mr Katumanga, Mr Francis Ng’ang’a and Mr Peter Mutulu for Knut. The government was represented by Education PS Japheth Kiptoon, his Treasury counterpart Joseph Kinyua and Mr James Ongwae who was in charge of personnel management.
But the government would only later increase the basic salaries and leave out the allowances. Instead, in 2003, then Education minister George Saitoti gazetted Legal Notice 16 which sought to overturn the 1997 agreement by varying the allowances that the government had agreed to.
With the legality of the 1997 agreement in question, two Cabinet Secretaries – Labour’s Kazungu Kambi and his Education counterpart Jacob Kaimenyi –now argue that teachers have no case as far as the government is concerned based on the 2003 legal notice.
“Knut does not have a case, and I would advise them to get a collective bargaining agreement. Going to the streets does not solve the issue, but coming to the (negotiation) table solves almost all the issues,” Mr Kambi said last week. The Labour Secretary’s argument is that teachers only have a gazette notice while salaries are negotiated on the basis of CBAs.
But Knut maintains that the government must nullify Legal Notice 16, recognise the 1997 agreement and reinstate their medical, house and commuter allowances of 20, 50 and 10 per cent respectively.
“The Legal Notice 16 alleges that it was signed by our leaders yet it did not originate from the Teachers’ Service Remuneration Commission. The degazettement should be the starting point because we do not recognise the said legal notice,” said Mr Sossion.
The Knut officials said the government was becoming mischievous and was involved in games that would not solve the stalemate. Mr Sossion said Section 13(1) of the Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) Act establishes the Teachers’ Service Remuneration Commission (TSRC) which is equivalent to the Industrial Court. Therefore, there was no need for teachers to deposit the 1997 agreement with the Industrial Court again.
“CBAs that are deposited with the Industrial Court are from the private sector for purposes of protection. But teachers are not in that category. They are permanent and pensionable,” he said.
TSRC, the Knut boss argued, was established because the government recognised the special position of teachers in the country. “Therefore, the 1997 agreement is a valid CBA that has been recognised as such by the TSRC as well as other courts of this land.”
The High Court in Nakuru had in October 2003 upheld the 1997 agreement as a CBA. In 2010, November, the courts again endorsed the earlier ruling. The teachers, Mr Sossion said, would stay out of the classrooms as long as it takes the government to recognise the 1997 deal.
“There has been no cordial approach or talks taking place behind the scenes. Instead, the government has run to court, but teachers will remain on strike as long as it takes. Remember at one point we have been out for close to a month. We are ready for the same,” he said.
On Friday Prof Kaimenyi threatened to withhold teachers’ salaries if Knut does not come to the negotiating table. But Mr Sossion said the law is clear that the Cabinet Secretary cannot withhold salaries for workers who have performed their duties for at least 21 days.
Yesterday, he confirmed that some teachers have been paid. “Three-quarters of teachers have received their salaries, especially those in Equity Bank,” said Mr Sossion.