Kenyan Teachers Vow to Continue Strike Despite Government Offer

Kenyan teachers vowed to continue a strike over employment terms after rejecting the government’s offer of 9.3 billion shillings ($102 million) in allowances.

“The strike will continue until the demands of teachers are met,” Kenya National Union of Teachers Chairman Mudzo Nzili said yesterday in an interview from the capital, Nairobi. About 288,000 educators in public schools are taking part in the stoppage that started on Jan. 5 and was provoked by the government’s withdrawal of a proposal to increase their pay by as much as 60 percent, Nzili said. Teachers demand that their basic wages be at least doubled, he said.

The Kenyan government is struggling to reduce its wage bill, which at more than half of the tax income, is “very high,” the International Monetary Fund said in June 2013.

There are no additional funds to raise educators’ salaries, the Nairobi-based Daily Nation newspaper reported yesterday, citing Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich, who didn’t answer three calls seeking comment.

The new offer meets teachers’ demands relating to housing, hardship, and leave allowances including mortgage and car loans, Labor Secretary Kazungu Kambi said in a Jan. 6 statement posted on the Labor Ministry’s website. The proposal increases the annual wage bill for teachers to 170 billion shillings, or 10 percent of the budget, he said.

Whereas educators demand a pay increment, Kambi said salaries will only be reviewed once a job evaluation for all public-sector employees including teachers, police officers and health workers is complete. He didn’t give a timeframe for the appraisals.

Kenyan teachers’ last strike lasted three weeks in July 2013, before the union and the government agreed to conclude a collective-bargaining agreement within the following 90 days. The pact was never completed, according to Nzili.

The annual wage bill for teachers is currently 161.1 billion shillings, or 14.5 percent of the recurrent budget, the Daily Nation reported on Jan. 6, citing Gabriel Lengoiboni, the secretary of the Teachers Service Commission, which is the government’s employing agency in the industry.

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