Graduate and disabled officers have started resigning from their positions after the National Police Service Commission reduced their salaries by as much as half last week.
Officers who have already received their March salaries — paid through the Kenya Police Sacco — told the Nation on Sunday that their take-home pay had significantly been reduced, in some cases by up to Sh26,000.
The adjustments, which have mainly affected graduate police officers and those disabled in the line of duty, were effected this month despite a court order directing the government not to implement the reviews by the NPSC.
The law exempts the disabled from paying taxes for monthly earnings of Sh150,000 and below.
Mobile phone salary notifications of a number of law enforcement officers show that some would earn as low as Sh20 this month while others would get nothing.
The notifications, sent by the Police Sacco since Friday, have infuriated the officers, some of whom have drafted resignation letters.
“I earned negative Sh15,000 this month,” said an officer, whom we cannot name because of the sensitivity of the matter, but whose salary notification we reproduce.
“If I continue working here, I will keep earning zero.”
The officer, who has since tendered his resignation, said he had taken a loan from the sacco based on the consideration that he would be able to pay it every month.
“It is not fair for them to reduce our salaries without even giving us notices,” he said, demanding to know how the NPSC expected the affected officers to settle their bills.
To make matters worse, he had to borrow money to finance his resignation as police standing orders require that an officer quitting the force surrenders a month’s salary and issues a 24-hour notice.
Alternatively, one may serve a three-month notice, which most of the officers are trying to avoid.
Only those who have served for 12 years are eligible for terminal benefits.
A dismayed officer said he wondered why the NPSC had gone against the stipulations of the International Labour Organisation, which bars downward review of salaries.
“We already are living in deplorable conditions and working in very risky circumstances but our employer is taking from us the little we get. It is shameful,” he said.
The Central Organisation of Trade Unions Kenya said the reduction in pay went against the International Labour Organisation’s Convention 95 on protection of wages.
“Under the country’s labour laws, one's pay cannot be reduced without discussions between the worker and the employer,” Cotu Secretary-General Francis Atwoli said on Sunday.
“This unilateral decision is unfair.”
On Sunday, a group of affected officers met at a Nairobi hotel to discuss the way forward and contribute money towards legal fees as they intend to sue the National Police Service.
Since 1995, when Parliament passed a motion to enhance the salaries of police officers, graduates have enjoyed better starting pay than non-graduates.
The review was implemented by the then Internal Security minister Jackson Kalweo, who directed that graduates should earn like their peers in the civil service for two years after which they should be promoted.
Since then, a graduate joining the force at the lowest rank of Constable is placed at Job Group J, earning a basic monthly salary of Sh36,000 and a prison and police allowance of Sh11,000.
However, lawyers, engineers and doctors in the force are graded higher.
That changed last week when Vigilance House implemented the amendments advised by NPSC chief executive officer Joseph Onyango, slashing the salary of a graduate constable to Sh18,000 and the allowance to Sh9,000.
Graduate officers are also complaining that promotions based on their academic qualifications are not being implemented as senior officers favour their relatives.
Promotions in the service are, however, not automatic as one has to sit interviews, known within the force as boards.
“This is the only institution where a Standard Eight dropout, a Form Four leaver who scored a D- in the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination, an undergraduate and postgraduate get the same pay,” a police officer told the Nation on Sunday.
Before the implementation of the adjustments — which also included the imposing of taxes on disabled officers — graduate constables earned a basic salary equal to that of a non-graduate inspector, only that the inspectors earned higher allowances because of their rank.
NPS spokesperson Charles Owino defended the adjustments, saying they should not be seen as a ploy to downgrade the officers "since the upward review was an anomaly in the first place".
“The NPSC acted within the law,” Mr Owino said, adding that officers would earn salaries that are equivalent to their ranks.
"For instance," he said, "there is no legal authority to pay corporals a salary equivalent to that of an inspector."
In recent years, graduates have routinely been promoted from constable directly to Inspector after just three years of service, jumping the ranks of corporal, sergeant and senior sergeant.
In February, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said the government was planning to introduce courses for specialists to join the service as assistant superintendents.