You may or may not be aware of this, but the Kenyan government is currently facing a crisis in its civil service sector. For the past two weeks not a single student has been able to attend their classes, as both the Kenyan National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenyan Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) called for a strike in response to unresolved contract grievances. To add even more drama to the pot, the teacher strike was then joined by the Kenyan doctors union, virtually paralyzing the education and health sectors. I thought that a brief timeline of events, at least as much as I have been able to ascertain at this time, might be of some help in understanding this national crisis.
1997 – With national elections soon approaching, KNUT held a teacher strike demanding better pay and allowances. After ministers were unable to reach a contract agreement with the teachers, then President Daniel arap Moi stepped in and was able to find a solution. This solution was that the teachers were to receive a 300% pay increase and a house allowance of 50 per cent of basic pay, medical (20 per cent), responsibility (45 per cent), special schools (10 per cent), hardship (30 per cent) and automatic commuter (10 per cent).
2003 – With the 1997 agreement still only partially fulfilled and facing budget problems, the government passed Legal Notice no 16, which amended the 1997 agreement and drastically reduced the benefits.
July 4, 2012 – The teacher’s union officially wrote to Parliament rejecting this year’s budget proposal for the education sector. The teachers had previously demanded that there needed to be 40, 000 new teachers hired to meet the national educational needs. The budget only enabled the hiring of 10, 000 teachers.
July 16, 2012 – The treasury approves the pay hike of its national civil servants, with wage increases varying between 18% to 22%. The teachers were excluded from this pay increase on the grounds that they still possessed their collective bargaining rights. The Education Minister would later deem this decision to be unfair.
August 31, 2012 – After the teachers had previously issued a strike warning unless their grievances were resolved, the government appealed to the courts to disallow the strike. The government claimed that the strike was unconstitutional, in that under the Constitution every child has a right to education and the strike will violate this right. A court order is officially issued, declaring the strike illegal, ordering the teachers to report back to work. KNUT claimed this order to be illegal, as their strike notice had expired by that point.
September 3, 2012 – KNUT and KUPPET officially go on strike and all 240, 000 teachers refuse to work. They demand full payment of their 1997 agreement, necessitating the revoking of Legal notice No. 16. Parent and other civil organizations petition the courts to force-end the strike. Education officers in some districts move from school to school and ask students who had reported that day to go home. A recommendation is officially brought before the government to include the teachers in the July civil servant salary increase. Note: the Finance Press Secretary claims that the teachers have already been fulfilled, as they were part of salary negotiation awards in 2008
September 7, 2012 – Teachers still on strike. No constructive dialogue between the government and the unions. The court extends its ban on the strike
September 8, 2012 – The doctors of Kenya officially call a strike, joining the teachers. They are also demanding that the government fulfill their promise to increase the doctor’s salary and allowance benefits, and agreement that was made last year to resolve the doctor’s strike. While the doctors do go to work each day, they typically refuse to see patients, with many patients being sent home untreated.
September 14, 2012 – A specially appointed cabinet to resolve the strike direct the Education Minister to revoke Legal notice No. 16, which will unblock the 1997 deal on allowances. Meanwhile, parents petition the Kenya National Examinations Council to postpone the important Standard 8 and Form 4 tests in light of the lost class time. The council rejects the petition, claiming there to huge implications on the education system as these tests are necessary for the children to have access to their next level of learning.
September 16, 2012 – University dons order striking public university lecturers to report back to lecture halls on Monday morning or risk losing their jobs. Also, the government announced that it has increased allowances for all Permanent Secretaries by approximately 20%, as stipulated in the July salary review.
September 20, 2012 – Teachers reject a Sh13.4 billion offer by the government. While the offer was said to be ‘difficult’ to afford this fiscal year, the Finance minister stated that it is important for them to break the stalemate. The offer, however, was dismissed as a ‘mockery’ by Union leaders.
September 21, 2012 – University teachers call off their strike after a deal was reached between them and the government. The University union settled for a 33.1 per cent increase of their basic salary and 14.27 per cent increase on their house allowance.
September 22, 2012 – After long negotiations over the proposed 13.4 billion KSh offer by the government, KNUT formally rejects the offer on the grounds that they will not accept that does not allow for a one time payment. The government offer was to be paid in three phases.
September 23, 2012 – The strike is over!! After a final nail-biting round of negotiations, the teachers union and the government were finally able to come to an contract agreement and end the strike. The teachers will receive KSh 13.5 billion, to be paid out in one lump sun. While there has been much talk over the effect that this payment will have on the rest of the budget the nation collectively gives a sigh of relief and the children of Kenya can go back to school.
The basic arguments are as such:
The government thinks that the strike should not be allowed and that salary talks should be done through another method. They make the case that this is the most crucial time for many students, as the Section 8 and Form 4 tests are integral for their academic placement. As well, they claim that the sheer number of teachers, all 250, 000 of them, makes even a small salary increase a huge budgetary burden. They point out that the Free Primary Education Act of 2003 meant many more teachers were added to the mix, making it harder to pay. They appeal to the fact that the demands for salaries and allowances by teachers amounts to Ksh. 500 billion, which is well over 50 per cent of the total National budget of the country and therefore unsustainable.
The teachers claim that the government can not simply ignore the original 1997 agreement, one that was made to resolve their previous salary grievances. They point out that the salary allowances the government has offered in its July proposal are inadequate and unrealistic, especially in light of their status as some of the lowest paid civil servants, but with very important responsibilities. They claim that there has never been any legitimate attempt made by the government to negotiate with the unions to find a resolution, rather they use strong-arm tactics such as the court order to stop it. They point out that they are not asking for Ksh. 500 Billion, but rather demand Ksh. 45 billion, which is very reasonable for the government to afford.
Whew, so there it is. I’m sure there is probably a bunch of information that I didt include, but that was all I could scrounge up in the online Kenyan newspaper archives. Trust me, this is just as confusing for me as I’m sure reading all of that was for you.
More to come!