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Kenyan Appeals Court Rejects Pay Raise for Teachers

FILE - Pupils at the Toi Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya sit in a classroom and study without a teacher, because the teachers are on strike. Members of the Kenya National Union of Teachers and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers went on strike for several weeks earlier this year after the government refused to increase salaries.

Kenyan teachers are disappointed by an appeals court ruling voiding a lower-court order to increase their pay, a teachers union official said Friday.

Kenya's Employment and Labor Relations Court had recently ordered the government to give striking teachers a 50 to 60 percent raise, but the government said it had no money to implement the ruling. The government, through the Teachers Service Commission, petitioned for an appeal.

On Friday, the appeals court said the lower court didn’t have the power to order the pay increases. Local media quoted the appeals judges as saying, “The [lower] court cannot usurp the powers of a constitutional commission.”

Akello Misori, secretary-general of Kenya’s Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET), described the appellate decision as a travesty of justice. He said lawyers for KUPPET planned to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. He also said the nation's teacher groups have other options to ensure the government meets the demands for better pay and living conditions.

"This ruling is a disaster for industrial reasons in Kenya, because it now indicates that the workers in Kenya may not enjoy practices which are guaranteed in the constitution," Misori said. "It also negates the principles of using the labor and employment court to resolve disputes. ...

"The skewed nature of this judgment is the reason for which we are going to the Supreme Court — first to determine the constitutional issues which were raised in this judgment.”

Misori said that in text messages sent to him, teachers had indicated they were "devastated, and they have lost confidence in the court. But we are saying the rule of law must be given a chance, and that is the reason for which we are saying, even [though] we have lost here, this is a democratically elected government which must also respect the institutions which are created to arbitrate.”

Misori said successive administrations in Nairobi have not been fair to teachers, despite repeated calls for better pay and improved conditions of service. He said the teachers group was willing to negotiate with the government to resolve the impasse.