The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) and three unions have to go back to the drawing board now after they hit a stalemate on how to compensate teachers during salary review talks that started in Nairobi yesterday.
Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut), Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) and Kenya Union of Special Needs Education Teachers (Kusnet) met TSC representatives but were dissatisfied with the commission’s initial offer, saying it was far below their expectations. All parties agreed to hold further discussions next Monday when new proposals are likely to be put on the table.
Union leaders said they expected that the talks would be based on the 2021-25 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), in which Kuppet sought a basic salary review of between 30 and 70 per cent for its members. Under the same document, Knut had asked for a 60 per cent pay raise for its members.
Knut and Kuppet secretaries-general Collins Oyuu and Akelo Misori protested that TSC had pegged the initial discussions on President William Ruto’s recent pronouncement and an advisory from the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC), both of which the unions have disagreed with. The unions argue that as an independent commission, TSC has the power to set salaries for its staff without advise or instructions from the salaries commission.
Additionally, they were opposed to a proposal by TSC, which changed the seven to 10 per cent increment as initially recommended by SRC for teachers in higher grades and instead proposed a 2.5 per cent increase for them. Teachers in the lower grades were also offered a similar percentage, which is lower than the 9.5 per cent that SRC had recommended earlier.
Kenya’s inflation stands at about seven per cent and a pay rise below this will be below inflation rate, meaning that it is unlikely to cushion workers from the high cost of goods and services.
“It is sad that what TSC has presented is less than the advisory that SRC gave,” said Misori, after the meeting with TSC representatives at the Kenya School of Government.
Oyuu also said: “The 7 to 10 per cent was to cushion teachers and public servants because of harsh economic times the country is going through. So, much as we thank the President, we also want to talk to TSC and tell them what we expected in the review is not what they brought to us.”
Aware of the presidential pronouncement and SRC advisory, the unions said they went for the talks with the expectation of getting an offer but their hopes were dashed.
“Even what the President announced is not within what TSC is thinking about because they have come up with figures like 9.5 per cent for those in lower category and 2.4 per cent for those in higher grades and further suggesting that the payment be done in phases of two years,” said Misori, accusing TSC of prolonging teachers’ anxiety.
“We have given them up to Monday to come up with tangible proposals which we can talk about.”
TSC, meanwhile, gave the unions printed copies of the initial offer and asked the officials to study the document and give recommendations at the next meeting.
The two unions agreed that this was a step in the right direction because they have been seeking audience with TSC and the fact that the commission invited them for negotiations was welcome.
“We are asking teachers to be very patient because this is something that is taking our energies so that we can have conclusive engagement on Monday,” said Misori.
He said Kuppet will not put conditions on negotiations, at least for the moment, and that the union still has more time to negotiate so long as it delivers to teachers what is agreeable with their employer.
Talks on reviewing salaries were initially set to commence in 2020 but were postponed to 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In July 2021, the unions signed a non-monetary CBA, again because of Covid, but they have been seeking a review ahead of the expiry of the tenure of the CBA, which expires next year.
“We can still wait so long as we get our rightful remuneration as guaranteed in our negotiations and with the windfall from the President of between seven and 10 per cent but nobody should bring it down because Treasury has accepted and SRC has advised,” said Misori.
The union leader, like his Knut counterparts, did not understand why TSC was reducing the officer made by both the President and SRC.
“We asked them a question. Suppose the President did not pronounce on seven to 10 per cent, what were you going to bring to us? So what we have deliberated on is nothing short of the presidential pronouncement,” he added.
The offer made by the President, and endorsed by the salaries commission, was to take effect from July 1 but the union leaders said members were yet to see this reflected on their payslips.
Yesterday, Oyuu said the unions would interrogate what SRC had presented to TSC, then the employer and Knut would agree on the mode of implementation.
“The 2.4 per cent and 9.5 per cent is welcome by KNUT and we have reasons. We said what we had presented let the lowest earning teachers get the highest percentage and highest earning teacher get lower percentages,” Oyuu said but insisted that SRC can only advise the teachers’ employer, not give it instructions.
According to him, at various International Labour Organiaation (ILO) conferences, the issue of SRC’s had come up and the recommendation was always that the commission must desist from acting like a union, and that its role should be limited to advising, not negotiating pay raises for workers.
“Teachers have suffered in this country and we are surprised that TSC has not brought anything,” he said of yesterday’s talks.
All unions declined to sign the documents that TSC presented. They insisted on interrogating them further and argued that any new talks must be based on the 2021/25 CBA.