For most of the past year, the main goal of KUPPET’s advocacy has been the re-opening of non-monetary CBA for 2021-2025 signed in June 2021. The CBA, which carried no monetary benefit for teachers, was signed strictly out of necessity. Even though the union had rejected the counter offer from the Teachers’ Service Commission, it eventually accepted to sign the document on the underatanding that the TSC would be open for talks on salary increment after one year.
The CBA was signed in peculiar circumstances. Whereas the union had been negotiating with the Commission for nearly three years, the government, through the Salaries Commission turned around at the last minute to freeze salary increments during the Third Public Sector Remuneration and Benefits Review Cycle in 2021.
The excuse was COVID-19 was interdicted by retire President Uhuru Kenyatta in his last State of the Nation Address. The President stated that, “The second quarter of 2021 registered the most impressive growth ever recorded in our nation’s real GDP.” For the first time in history, Kenya hit double figures 10.1% growth rate. The last time Kenya was this close was in 2010 in the grand coalition government where it recorded 8.4% growth rate.
He also revealed that, for the first time in his tenure, the Kenya Revenue Authority exceeded its revenue collection expectations. They projected Sh1.52 trillion but ended up with Sh1.67 trillion.
Based on these strong fundamentals, the government went ahead and reviewed the salaries and allowances of the employees in the Judicial Service Commission, the Parliamentary Service Commission, and County governments who happen to be among the highest paid cadres in the public service sector and many private sectors have just concluded CBAs awarding employers salary increment.
Paradoxically, our teachers are still yearning for working conditions that befit their role in nation building. Teachers are among the lowest paid cadres in the public service. Unlike other public servants, they have no study leave. Their house allowances are fixed on arbitrary geographical zones.
Their higher academic qualifications do not result in automatic job progression. They are not compensated for work out of the station. And they are the easiest to victimise for alleged malfeasance – from exam cheating to student indiscipline they have no control over. For the sake of Kenya’s education standards and national prosperity, these negative trends must be addressed before they upend the profession. As a union, our main grievance is of course the financial compensation for teachers. In light of the prevailing economic circumstances, our members have effectively taken a pay cut over the last two years.
Since the SRC froze salary increments for public servants during the Third Public Sector Remuneration and Benefits Review Cycle in 2021, inflation has soared, pushing commodity prices through the roof. A new housing and retirement benefits system have been implemented, taking up to 10 per cent of members’ incomes. Now, the new government is mulling further increments in statutory medical and retirement benefits funds. Taken together, these deductions have nullified the gains of the previous collective bargaining agreement which covered the 2016-2021 period.
Denial of the teachers’ right to a salary review in 2021 further compounded the problem. Essentially, teachers’ earnings have gone down, at a time their workload has risen sharply as a result of larger class sizes and new responsibilities under the competency based curriculum. With President William Ruto having personally lamented these dynamics, we expected the new government to move with haste in negotiating a CBA for teachers.
“Teachers are among the lowest paid cadres in the public service. They have no study leave. Their house allowances are fixed on arbitrary geographical zones.
Their higher academic qualifications do not result in automatic job progression. They are not compensated for work out of the station. And they are the easiest to victimise for alleged malfeasance – from exam cheating to student indiscipline they have no control over.”
The government should never approach collective bargaining as an avenue for saving money when its employees are hurting. And it must never allow the SRC to sabotage the union’s negotiations with the Teachers Service Commission as happened in 2021. As provided under Article 41(5) of the Constitution, trade unions and employers have the right to enter into CBAs.
This position is further insulated under Section 2 of the Labor Relations Act, which defines a collective bargaining agreement to mean a written agreement regarding any terms or conditions of employment made between a trade union and an employer, group of employers or organization of employers. Thus, where a union enters into a CBA upon negotiations with the employer pursuant to Article 41(5) of the constitution, which collective bargaining agreement is made in good faith and in exercise of rights to fair labour practice, such should not be fettered through conceit of advice from another constitutional body.
Over the next several weeks and months, we will pursue our members’ right to re-open the non-monetary CBA with renewed vigour. In this battle, time is of great essence. Our demand is for teachers to get a piece of the cake. Apart from basic salary, we have also demanded the harmonisation of house allowances across Job Groups to the level currently paid for Nairobi-based teachers. Our research has established that house rents are rising fast in places like Ngong, Migori, Bomet, and Nyamira which were traditionally affordable, yet the TSC still treats these towns as part of rural areas.
The union has also registered our rejection of current house allowances and want a new regime based strictly on Job Groups and not geography. We have started negotiations on that issue, and our position is that teachers deserve the same high standards for housing irrespective of their work stations. “Collective bargaining is the core of labour relations in Kenya. We will take constructive and responsible actions to accumulate conditions and open up space for a solution,” says Mr Misori.