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Uhuru rules out pay rise for teachers as unions press on

Friday September 11 2015

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past event.  FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past event. The President said the 50 to 60 per cent pay rise demanded by teachers may not be affordable for now unless Kenyans dig deeper into their pockets for more taxes. FILE PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

EDWIN OKOTH
By EDWIN OKOTH
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Kenyans will have to pay more taxes if the 50 to 60 per cent pay rise demanded by teachers is met, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.

Mr Kenyatta said the quest for pay increase is not only unsustainable but is bound to cause imbalance in the civil service wage structure and spark fresh demands by other workers.

“Over 50 per cent of what government collects now goes to paying salaries and with the new demands, we will be at over 60 per cent. What is going to be left for development?

We have to start looking at some of these demands against the economic reality. To pay more, we must be able to make more first,” Mr Kenyatta told journalists at State House yesterday.

He noted that the government had met previous demands by teachers to have their salaries harmonised with the rest of the civil service and, through the Salary and Remuneration Commission, came up with a new structure to address pay disparities.

The President, who was breaking his silence for the first time since the teachers’ strike began, has been accused by workers’ unions of ignoring the pay dispute that has now seen schools closed for two weeks.

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The teachers have maintained they will not go back to class until they get their pay rise as directed by the Industrial Court.

The government requires about Sh67.6 billion to implement the award. This comprises arrears of Sh40.6 billion that must be paid immediately.

“You can’t kill tomorrow because of what you want today. Money is created over time and the law won’t allow us to borrow for salaries,” the President said after signing five Bills to improve the country’s business environment. He had just arrived from Italy.

But the Kenya National Union of Teachers secretary-general Wilson Sossion said the demand by teachers is affordable since the government would still earn Sh300 million in taxes from the money used to implement the pay rise.

He said the government only needs Sh1.3 billion a month to honour the court order.

“This multiplied from August to June when the financial year ends will total to Sh14.3 billion. Adding this to the Sh40 billion comes to about Sh54.3 billion,” he said.

He added the union was not ready to negotiate the court ruling. “The President himself is a beneficiary of the same court rulings and we think he is being misadvised to support a contempt of court,” Mr Sossion said.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers Secretary-General Akello Misori said that the President should not prejudice court orders.

“This is a sad day for Kenyans if the President leads in disobedience of the courts. He is setting an unprecedented institution of anarchy; it is an abuse of the presidency and we will meet him in court.”