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Teachers to strike over pay

Monday December 29 2008

Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary

Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary general Lawrence Majali addresses a news conference at KNUT headquarters. He is with chairman George Wesonga. Photo/ PHOEBE OKALL.  

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

The Kenya National Union of Teachers has announced the date for a nationwide teachers’ strike, after salary talks with the Government collapsed.

According to the teachers’ Union, January 19, 2009 will see all teachers on the Government’s payroll go on strike to press for a salary increment.

The Knut’s Secretary General Lawrence Majali blamed what he called the “insensitivity of Government negotiators” for the failure of the talks.

Addressing a news conference at the Knut headquarters in Nairobi, Mr Majali said the go-slow by teachers was inevitable “if only to show the Government that the Union was serious.”

“We have ceded a lot of ground, but the Government is still pushing us down... enough is enough,” Mr Majali said.

He added: “We’ve been meeting since May 14 this year but the other side does not want to give the teachers what they deserve.”

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The talks collapsed just a day before  Education Minister Sam Ongeri released the results for last years Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations.

KCPE results are expected to be officially released Tuesday.

The Teachers Service Remuneration Committee which is tasked with negotiating teachers’ salaries had met earlier in the day, but the talks collapsed after the two sides failed to agree.

“We expected to conclude the issue... but that was not to be,” he said.

Apparently, the TSRC had agreed to a 35 percent rise in pay, but during Monday’s session, the Government representatives proposed an 18 percent increment.

Also, whereas Knut is pushing for the increased salaries to be at once starting January 2009, the Government wants the increment staggered over a five year period starting July 2009.

“If you spread the increment, the amount would become meaningless to our members, especially with the staggering inflation,” Mr Majali said.

The Union said that the argument by the Government side that the amount of money teachers are asking for had not been budgeted for were flimsy.

They demanded that their remuneration be figured into the supplementary budget.

“We have waited for too long. How come other civil servants get their hikes once, but when it comes to teachers they are told to be patient? Our patience has run out,”  said Mr George Wesonga, Knut’s chair.

“We’ve already wasted too much time at the negotiating table,” he said.