Public servants sector unions have condemned the government’s proposal to impose a housing levy without a commensurate increment in workers’ pay.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Kenya Universities Staff Union (KUSU), Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU), Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentist Union (KMPDU), and Kenya Union Of Domestic Hotels Educational Institutions Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) have now said they will seek legal redress to stop the new policy.
Led by KUSU Secretary General Charles Mukhwaya, the union leaders were speaking following the proposal to tax 3 per cent of workers’ monthly basic salary to fund a housing project.
They said they are concerned that a decision of such magnitude is being made without any engagement with workers as stakeholders and is in total violation of Section 26(2) of the Employment Act, 2007.
“As unions, we condemn in the strongest terms the heartless, insensitive, and cavalier manner in which the Government is proposing to impose a housing levy without any commensurate increment in workers’ emoluments. We demand the immediate reversal of the levy,” Mukhwaya stated.
He added: “As stakeholders in the labour movement, we will soon decide on the way forward on the continuous Government’s insensitivity to the plight of workers, especially in the public service.”
Mukhwaya said the unions have instructed their lawyers to stop what they termed as insensitive Government policy forthwith.
Whereas the government must collect taxes, he said workers have not refused to be taxed but should also be consulted when some decisions are taken.
The union said it has been a long since the Government reviewed salaries, bearing in mind that National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and other taxes have increased on the same small salary that workers have been earning for years on end.
Knut Secretary General, Collins Oyuu said this can only happen when there are proper consultations.
“Who does not need proper housing, who does not need affordable housing? But should it come without proper consultations at all? And should it come at a time when workers, and in this case, teachers, signed a cashless Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)?” Oyuu posed.
He said the Government should understand that the union leaders are on hot seats as workers’ representatives so adding yet another levy on the same salary of workers does not make sense.
According to Oyuu, the Government should employ the art of consultations saying the policy is not only painful but also in bad taste and should be put on hold.
“The shoes we put on are more than hot as we speak,” Oyuu said.
UASU Secretary General, Constantine Wasonga said the members have vowed to reject the levy, noting that they also rejected the 1.5 per cent levy proposed by the previous administration.
“At what level are UASU members public servants and at what stage are they, not public servants? For instance, when public servants are enjoying comprehensive medical coverage, UASU staff are not enjoying anything. When public servants are enjoying a mortgage, UASU staff are not and when it comes to taxation we are now public servants. We are saying no and can you please give us a break,” Wasonga uttered.