The chairman of Kenya’s National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has warned of “dire consequences” if teachers’ salaries and allowances for July are not fully paid by the close of business Wednesday.
“It’s wrong for the government to violate an agreement and raid the payrolls of teachers to raise revenue to service [government] needs,” said KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion. “Teachers’ salaries, together with the new commuter allowances which were agreed to end the strike, must be in their bank accounts by 31st of July, failure of which the teachers of this country will take drastic measures against the government.”
The teacher’s group accepted the government’s offer for commuter allowance of between $33 for the lowest earning teacher and $126 for the highest earning teacher to be paid in two phases over the next 12 months.
Sossion accused the government of provocation following an announcement that teachers will not get their July pay because of their strike. KNUT executives suspended a three-week teacher’s strike following negotiations with the administration.
Sossion says KNUT has notified the Teachers Service Commission as well as various government institutions to pressure the administration to keep its promises.
“We still have a lot of energy to stage any other strike to prevent the infringement of our rights by the government,” said Sossion.
Sossion’s comments came after some government officials expressed concern about the country’s high wage bill. They proposed ways to cut down the wage bill and the broadening of the tax base to raise more revenue for the government. But Sossion says the teachers are not to blame for the high wage bill.
“That is not an excuse to punish workers. We are not asking for additional money. [They should] pay the salaries at the level that they have been paying. And so the argument of the huge wage bill has no correlation whatsoever with the running salaries of teachers,” said Sossion.
“So we have given our warning in black and white and we expect the government to comply. If it doesn’t we will further invoke the powers granted to us as a union by the Labor Relations Act.”
Supporters of the ruling party have accused the teachers group of creating a crisis in education through blackmail. They said the recent teachers’ strike was politically motivated. Sossion disagreed.
“We do not engage in politics as a labor union and we operate within the [confines] of the law and therefore we are quoting the law. We are not playing politics. It is government, which is playing politics.”