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Kenya Teachers Strike to Begin Monday

A girl stands next to her locked classroom as a nationwide strike by Kenyan teachers demanding a salary increase left most learning institution paralyzed, in Nairobi, September 5, 2012.
The secretary-general of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) said members of the group will embark on a nationwide strike Monday to press home their demands for better pay.

This comes despite an Industrial Court ruling declaring the strike action is unconstitutional.

But, David Okuta Osiany said the strike was necessary after the government refused to negotiate with teachers in spite of what he said were repeated appeals.

He said the strike will continue until government meets their demands.

“What we demand [are] the allowances as contained in legal notice 543 of 1997. Secondly, salary increment of up to 300 percent if possible, or any agreed amount by the government," he said. "We also want responsibility allowances like head sheep allowance for both principals and heads of schools and generally improved terms and conditions of service.”

Osiany said the government increased salaries of some workers, but has yet to do the same for teachers.

“In February, we started writing to our employer to give us an avenue of negotiations. We have written letters and letters, but none has been replied to. We told the government that, if they don’t want to negotiate with us, then we shall have no option, but to call our teachers out on strike,” said Osiany.

He said the government has yet to keep its part of an agreement it signed with the teachers.

“Our request for the government to honor the payment of allowances, as were agreed upon by us and the government in 1997, has always fallen on deaf ears. Therefore, the teachers of this republic have decided to down their tools,” said Osiany.

“We wanted some salary increments for the teachers or we wanted an avenue of negotiation, [but] the government does not want to negotiate with the teachers. So, what do we do? That is why we called the strike,” he said.

Kenya’s media reported KNUT representatives closed their offices and left town, which prevented court officers from serving them with the court’s decision. Osiany denied the media reports.

“That is not true. We can’t run away because we have a very big office in Nairobi. We have not been served and in any case, we gave the government 17-day notice as is provided for in [the] Labor Relations Act. Seventeen days elapsed [last] Thursday,” Osiany said. “Our employers woke up after the days of the notice have elapsed to go and secure a court order. That court order, according to me, has been overtaken by events.”

Observers have expressed concern that the strike will have a negative impact on students who are preparing for their examinations. They contend that the teachers will be engaging in illegality following the court order. But, Osiany disagreed.

“That court order, if it is, it was taken ex parte. We are also ready to go and argue our case and it being unconstitutional or illegal will then be decided later,” Osiany said.

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