The government and teachers are headed for a major showdown after Finance Minister Njeru Githae ruled out a pay increase for them, despite threats of a strike from September 3.
The minister instead urged the teachers to wait for the Salary and Remuneration Commission (SRC) to harmonise salaries for all civil servants for them to get the pay increase.
Although the government had signed an agreement with the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Githae said they are not able to meet their part of the bargain until the salaries commission finalises its work.
"Teachers... give the Salaries and Remuneration Commission to come up with these proposals and the harmonised salaries. It is only at that time we will be able to look at all sectors which are either below or above the harmonised rate," Githae said.
On Sunday, KNUT announced that it would mobilise a national strike for teachers beginning September 3 to pressurise the government to honour its pledge.
The Finance Minister however said the government was experiencing difficulties in meeting the increment because the wage bill has continued to rise to a level where almost all the revenue collected through taxes is used to pay salaries.
"All the revenue that KRA is expected to collect this year... Sh953 billion, all of it is going to recurrent expenditure," Githae said.
"What is happening at the moment (is that), only those sectors which are able to threaten to go on strike; those that are able to blackmail or intimidate the government... are the ones able to get the increments," he added.
KNUT has warned that it will disrupt the opening of schools in September unless the government starts negotiations on a 300 percent pay increase for teachers and fulfils a deal reached way back in 1997.
Speaking to Capital FM News, KNUT Secretary General David Okuta insisted that the teachers will go ahead with the strike until their needs are met. He said the continued defiance by government has set the perfect stage for teachers to down their tools.
"The ball is now in the government's court. They will decide what to do with it. The statement by the minister now sets the stage for the strike; the teachers are now certain to down their tools and will not go to class," said Okuta on the telephone.
In the meantime, the Kenya National Association of Parents also backed the strike threat by KNUT.
Secretary General Musau Ndunda said that the government had no valid reason for failing to honour the pledge it made to teachers 15 years ago.
"KNUT has given us all the documents concerning the agreements from 1997 up to now. And after going through the documents, we have realised that KNUT complaints are indeed justified and we have decided to support them," Ndunda said.
According to the 1997 deal, teachers should by now have received various allowances including house allowances (50 percent of basic pay), medical allowance of 30 percent, and commuter allowance of 10 percent and 30 percent allowance for areas gazetted as hardship zones.
(LORDRICK MAYABI also contributed to this report)