Teachers can now sit easy, happy that none of them will be sacked, and their pay has finally been harmonised with what the rest of public workforce earns.
But there is a delicate matter left out — the deal only covered harmonization, but the 300 per cent wage increase Knut sought and the 100 pay rise demanded by Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) was probably left for another day, as no mention was made of them.
News of the deal finally squeezed from the Government through the coercive action of a national strike, was a relief to four groups.
For teachers, the risk they took bore fruit since they neither lost their jobs nor missed their salaries as government had threatened.
Parents and children will be happy for schools to reopen, and especially candidates so they can resume their exam preparations as fast as possible.
Finally, Government bureaucrats and ministers who were on the edges of their seats, gritting the teeth and not knowing if they would be forced to take responsibility for the strike and even postpone the exams.
The strike that paralysed learning in public schools as those in private institutions progressed uninterrupted, yet candidates in the two groups will finally sit the same examinations, ended when Government through Finance Minister Njeru Githae threw in the towel.
Brokering the deal for government was Githae because teacher unions vowed never to sit with Education minister Mutula Kilonzo after he dismissed their demands as ‘nonsense’.
When the rest of the country was aggrieved by the fact the President left for the US with teachers and doctors still on strike — to be followed on October 1 by nurses — it was the best Sunday gift ever for parents to learn that a deal had been struck.
It was simple really; the two sides had agreed on Sh13.5 billion, but the Government insisted it would be paid in two tranches while the Knut insisted it must come to its members as a lump sum.
In his new genteel mood, Githae hurriedly convened a meeting, away from his office, at the fabulous Tribe Hotel in Gigiri. It was after the closed-door meeting at the hotel that Githae emerged with the Knut officials to announce they had agreed on a lump sum payoff that will see teachers salaries harmonised with those of civil servants with effect from July 1, 2012, which means teachers have something else to look to — arrears!
Githae said the increment would be paid at once and would be reflected in the October pay-slips.
“Teachers’ salaries are being harmonised in line with those of the civil servants that were approved from July 2012. The harmonisation will be effected in full,” promised Githae.
Knut Chairman Wilson Sossion said the strike was still on until the union’s National Executive Council, which meets this morning, ratifies the agreement signed yesterday.
Sossion explained that as union officials they do not have the powers to call off the strike, adding the prerogative lies with the Secretary General David Okuta Osiany, who is ailing, and in his absence, the acting Secretary General according to the union’s Constitution.
“Let me put it clear to teachers that the strike is on until you hear word from the National Executive Council which will advise the Secretary General to call off the strike,” said Sossion amidst applause from the steering committee.
However, from the mood of the officials at the meeting, Knut’s NEC will merely formalise the deal ending the strike.
But whereas officials of Kuppet did not attend the meeting, they agreed to the resolutions. Kuppet Secretary General Akello Misori said the deal was a big win for the union.
“Our National Governing Council, the top decision making organ is meeting on Monday at 10.00 am to officially call off the strike following the new development,” Misori told The Standard.
Misori said: “We are awaiting communication from the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) to work on details of the return-to-work formula and officially seal the deal, but all the issues will be tabled before the NGC.”
He said the Government should in future avoid engaging in skewed negotiations that would lead to teachers striking to press for salary and allowances increment.
Civil servants were awarded a salary increment in July this year, but teachers were left out leading to the twin protests by Kuppet and Knut.
Kuppet is the only union out of the two that had demanded for harmonisation of salaries between civil servants and the teachers as a key issue for the strike.
Knut had only demanded for a 300 per cent salary increment, implementation of the Legal Notice 534 of 1997 and increment of responsibility allowances for teachers at 50, 40 and 30 per cent respectively for principals, school heads, deputies, senior teachers and heads of departments respectively — which were not dealt with in yesterday’s deal.
The demand for employment of 40,000 primary teachers and 23,000 nursery teachers were subsequently not put on the table for discussion in the meeting that lasted nearly six hours.
The meeting attended by Finance PS Joseph Kinyua, Senior Deputy Director of Budget Onderi Ontweka and the Knut National Steering Committee endorsed the agreement that was drafted by both Union and the Treasury officials.
With the harmonised package, the lowest paid teacher will now earn Sh19,000 up from Sh13,750 while the highest will take home Sh142,000 up from Sh120,000. Those teachers in job group F to job group R will enjoy the harmonised salaries.
The meeting that was held on Friday last week endorsed the scrapping off all 8,000 P2 teachers who will now be automatically promoted to P1.
According to Sossion, other issues that were dealt with in that meeting included a 30 per cent hardship allowance that will be paid based on the area and not job group as has been the case.
The teachers will also earn a 20 per cent house allowance while those in special schools will pocket another 10 per cent due to the nature of their work.
It is believed the Salaries and Remuneration Commission will now deal with the other set of demands by the unions.
By RAWLINGS OTIENO and LONAH KIBET, The Standard