THE Ministry of Finance and the Kenya National Union of Teachers yesterday signed an agreement to pay teachers Sh13.5 billion in salary harmonisation at once. This is expected to end a three-week teachers' strike.
The move followed a marathon morning meeting between ministry officials and Knut's steering committee at the Tribe Hotel at the Village Market mall in Nairobi.
At midday, Finance minister Njeru Githae announced: “We have agreed to pay teachers at once the Sh13.5 million salary harmonisation with effect from October.”
Githae said it would not have been possible to pay teachers at the end of September and added that the October pay out would be backdated to July 1, when civil servants salaries were harmonised using Sh6.8 billion.
He said teachers will now be paid like other civil servants and added that "normalcy would return to the education sector" starting today.
The signing of the agreement will be followed by a Knut National Executive Council meeting today to approve or disapprove the agreement. “We shall meet tomorrow to deliberate upon this agreement as a union on whether to call off the strike or not," Knut national chairman Wilson Sossion said.
Knut Secretary General David Okuta, who fell ill around the time the strike began on September 3, is likely to attend the meeting and possibly call off the strike.
A return-to-work formula will be drafted later with TSC where it is expected none of the striking teachers would be punished. It will also ensure that no teacher loses his or her September salary. Sossion said he expects learning to resume and lauded what he described as "meaningful dialogue" that took effect on Friday (September 21). “All teachers will enjoy a harmonised salary from October. We didn't want to be paid in the next financial year,” Sossion said.
Teachers had three demands: salary harmonisation, 300 per cent salary increment and the implementation of legal notice 534 on allowances.
Githae said Treasury has not been insensitive to the strike but it was the union and teachers' employer, TSC, that were conducting negotiations. “The two had to narrow down on the issues at hand,” Githae said.
The government recently asked the teachers to accept a three-phase payout of the Sh13.5 billion in salary harmonisation not later than July 1, 2013. The teachers rejected the suggestion. They demanded that the payout must be one-off to reflect the meaning of 'harmonisation'.
Despite the government giving in to a one-off payout, teachers other demands of a 300 percent increment would be negotiated in structured negotiation as per Section 13 (5) of the TSC Act.
However, teachers managed to push the government to lift a ban on 30 percent of hardship and 10 percent of special education allowance. The two allowances will be paid to teachers.
Other allowances on house, commuter and medical are currently under parliament's committee on Delegated Legislation which is investigating whether they are supposed to be paid as per the 1997 deal. This is because legal notice 16 is said to have amended the three allowances.
On the strike's effect on the upcoming exams, Sossion said the union would propose that classes one to seven be granted a two weeks extension while standard 8 and Form 4 should proceed as scheduled.