Teachers and civil servants on Sunday threatened to strike over what they termed as frustration by the National Treasury. The government owes public servants close to sh83 billion in salary increases.
Labour unions, State officers said yesterday that should the state not honor their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) it struck with its workers, they will have no choice but to down their tools.
According to the 2017/18-2020/21 salary review teachers and civil servants were expecting a huge financial advance, with the government supposed to channel Sh83.4 billion to their accounts.
All these expectations were deemed by the were National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani who wrote to the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) stating that his ministry will not wire the full amounts.
SRC secretary Anne Gitau said that the decision by the National Treasury is attributed to financial constraints due to the forthcoming General Election and the disadvantageous impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Yatani said due to a drop in taxes collected, the Exchequer set aside 10 percent of the Sh68 (Sh6.8 billion) meant for the 4-year salary reviews for national government and county workers in the next budget. The remaining funds he said would be released in phases in the 2022/23-2024/25 financial years.
This did not go well with labour union leaders who castigated Yatani for using elections and Covid-19 as an excuse to withhold their dues. Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) Secretary-General Wilson Sossion said the Government and employers should get ready for stiff resistance from unions adding that the economy was more than capable of providing Sh83 billion, with about two-fifths of this allocated for teachers.
Cotu Secretary General Francis Atwoli noted that global economies have been ravaged by the pandemic but noted that counties make annual budgets hence workers do not have to wait for 4 years. He added that the funds being borrowed should be used to support Kenyans.
“I said it that the billions we are borrowing should supplement our budgetary allocations and also fight of Covid-19. But not to be pocketed by a few individuals,” said Atwoli. Public Finance Management Act 2012, however, does not permit the Government to spend borrowed money to for salary purposes.
KNUS SG stated that excessive borrowing in the economy can never be used to punish teachers and civil servants. “The CBAs must be funded as recommended by SRC. The Treasury and government cannot undermine what has been recommended by SRC,” said the ODM nominated MP.
Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU) said that the State must look for funds for the workers’ CBAs or risk industrial action.
“Kenyans pay taxes and workers are the Kenyans. So they will have to get what is due to them. The Government must look for money to implement CBAs,” said KUSU Secretary-General Charles Mukhwaya. “Sh6 billion is a drop in the ocean and a big joke.” He added.
Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Secretary-General Akelo Misori however declined to comment on the topic.
“No comment at the moment,” said Misori.
KUUPPET had held a 3-day retreat in Naivasha to discuss out pending issues in the CBA and to lay the ground for the next stage of the agreement. Union insiders however said the transit would be a huge setback for classroom teachers, who were hoping to mainly benefit from the next CBA. In the current Sh53 billion CBA, classroom teachers were awarded a raw deal.
Union of Kenya Civil Servants Deputy Secretary-General Jerry ole Kina announced that they are in the last phase of their CBA and remarked that they have been in negotiation with the Government and were expecting the government on Monday.
“Before we can comment, let’s hear them first. If it’s a positive answer we shall welcome it. If this is for the entire public service then we need to know the fine details of what they are talking about.”
Atwoli took issue with how public servants’ CBAs have been structured. CBAs, he maintained, should be of 2-year cycles and not 4 years as is the existing practice.
“And they have arm-twisted the unions to accept the four-year cycle, which is illegal, unconstitutionality against the ILO (International Labour Organisation) conventions,” said Atwoli. Atwoli noted that with 2 years cycle the subject of general elections would not occur.