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Relief for schools as pay talks avert strike

Tuesday October 14 2014

Teachers Service Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni (right) with Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion at a past event.

Teachers Service Commission Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni (right) with Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion at a past event. Teachers’ pay talks with the government ended without a pay-raise deal Tuesday evening, but union leaders agreed to shelve plans to call a nationwide strike. FILE PHOTO | DENISH OCHIENG  

BENJAMIN MUINDI
By BENJAMIN MUINDI
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MARYANNE GICOBI
By MARYANNE GICOBI
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Teachers’ pay talks with the government ended without a pay-raise deal last evening, but union leaders agreed to shelve plans to call a nation-wide strike.

The meeting agreed that the teachers’ employer, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC), would be given ten days to consult with relevant Government agencies over the union’s demands.

This means the union will not call a strike as they had threatened on Monday and the national exams which begin on Tuesday will not be disrupted.

However, Knut and Kuppet officials left TSC offices last evening empty-handed after the commission failed to give the two unions an offer. Instead, TSC asked for more time to consult with the National Treasury and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission.

'HARSH ECONOMIC REALITY'

In declining to put an offer on the table, TSC cited a “harsh economic reality” that had gripped the country and said the 37 demands by the unions could not be sustained. Implementing the demands in full, the TSC said, would cost the government about Sh725 billion per year.

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“We have agreed to give the government some more time to work on the issue,” Knut Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said after the talks that lasted for about four hours.

TSC Secretary Gabriel Lengoiboni said the parties had acted “maturely with understanding of the complexity of the matter and negotiations will still go on.”

Earlier, Mr Akelo Misori, the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary-general, had said: “These talks were just a publicity stunt by the TSC. In fact, the commission has withdrawn an earlier offer it had made.”

DROP THEIR THREATS

Mr Misori had stormed out of the meeting at the TSC offices in Upper Hill, Nairobi. He told journalists that Kuppet would call its national governing council in 24 hours to issue a seven-day strike notice.

He accused the government of taking teachers for granted.

Tuesday’s talks, which started at 3pm, were attended by representatives from both Knut and Kuppet, while the government side was represented by officials from TSC, the national Treasury and the ministries of Labour and Education, among others.

Mr Sossion led his delegation, which included chairman Mudzo Nzili, Mr Urbanus Mutisya (treasurer) and Mr Richard Kibagendi (deputy treasurer), while Mr Misori represented Kuppet.

Sources who attended the meeting said the government had pleaded with the unions to drop their threats of a strike and give more time for consultations.

However, the unions said that they were invited to hear about “a government offer” and not to be informed of “a government position.”

OFFER WITHDRAWN

Today, Mr Sossion, Education Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi and Mr Lengoiboni are expected to appear before a committee of Parliament to answer questions on the negotiations and whether the unions will call a strike.

The TSC has withdrawn an offer it had earlier given that would have cost taxpayers Sh52 billion. The deal was to be implemented over four years.

The withdrawal followed advice from the SRC that the offer was not feasible and would distort the entire public sector payroll.

If the government effects the proposed 50 to 60 per cent pay increase that the teachers are demanding, the teachers’ wage bill will go up by Sh117 billion.

Teachers have been demanding an increase in their basic salary as well as house and leave allowances.

Mr Sossion had on Monday warned in Mombasa that Knut would ask teachers to go on strike “promptly” if a deal would not be struck by yesterday.

This is the second time that talks on the salary demands have ended without a firm pay deal.