The Industrial Court has blocked Monday's countrywide strike by teachers after the Teachers Service Commission successfully argued a committee to address their pay grievances was in place. The order by Justice Byrum Ongaya blocks the teachers from going on strike pending the hearing and determination of a case filed by the TSC. The case will be heard on September 4.
The court order restrains teachers from taking part in or calling or inciting others to take part in the strike until the case is resolved. Justice Ongaya directed the TSC to serve the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education (Kuppet) ahead of the hearing of the case.
The TSC which is the teachers' employer said the strike planned to start on Monday was premature and ill conceived and against the Teachers Service Commission Act of 2012. The Act was enacted into law barely five days ago. The law proposes the establishment of a commission and relevant administrative structures to allow for negotiations between the teachers and their employer.
Allan Sitima who is representing the TSC said the unions ought to wait for the operationalization of the Act and the establishment of the remuneration committee to resolve the dispute. The teachers had given their strike notice after it accused the government of reneging on a 1997 promise to pay them their increased salaries in phases. The September 3 date was chosen to coincide with the first day of the third term.
According to TSC, the teachers should wait for the Act to be operationalised and the remuneration committee established. The committee will be tasked with the negotiation of terms and conditions of service for teachers in the public service. The TSC argues the strike date was chosen in bad faith and said its time would cripple the education sector irreparably. The TSC said it would especially impact negatively on students who are writing their KCPE and KCSE examinations.
"The children will suffer irreparable injury, which cannot be compensated by an award of damages in the event that the teachers go on strike and withdraw from teaching," said Situma.
Earlier, two parents had also filed a suit to stop the teachers from going on strike. The two Valerie Namtilu Wafula and Susan Wangari Muhoro argued that if the strike was allowed, it jeopardize learning in public schools and cause irreparable damage to the Standard Eight and Form Four students who are due to write their final exams this term.
The two said the strike would deny the children their right to education and appealed to the court to uphold these rights by restraining the teachers from going ons trike.
The strike has been opposed by the Catholic Church which urged the government and the union to amicably resolve the dispute.Bishop Maurice Muhatia of the Nakuru Catholic diocese said that while the teachers' demands were pertinent, a practical solution was needed which took into consideration the rights and interests of children.
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende supported the teachers strike saying they were paid 'peanuts.' The teachers are demanding a 300 per cent salary increase which is part of a deal which was signed in 1997 but which has not been fully implemented. Teachers Service Commission says that a teacher's award would cost the government Sh1, 113, 095, 269 per month or Sh13, 357, 145, 228 per year to cover all the teachers in the service as at July 1, 2012.
In 1997, the union's demand for house allowances was 50 per cent, 20 for medical and 10 for commuter. If the percentage was paid in 1997, a P2 teacher (Job Group F) minimum salary would have increased from Sh13, 750 to Sh24, 750 including the allowances. In the current 300 per cent demand a P2 teacher is supposed to get a minimum basic of Sh41, 250 but if the allowances are included he will earn Sh74, 250.
A P1 teacher (Job Group G) minimum salary would have rose from Sh15, 093 to Sh27, 167 in 1997, while the current demand would see them earn Sh45, 279 with a total of Sh81, 502 with allowances included. School principals at job group R were supposed to earn a minimum of Sh94, 947 in 1997, but if the allowances were included it summed to Sh169, 623.
According to the current 300 per cent proposal, principals in job group R's should get a minimum of Sh282, 705 and rise to Sh508, 869 including the allowances. The maximum for a principal should be Sh649, 458.