Nairobi — The government now says it will not pay teachers for the period they have been on strike, and will continue to withhold their salary for the time they will be out of classes.
Addressing a press conference on Friday afternoon, Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi insisted that the ongoing teachers strike is illegal because the deal the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) signed with the government in 1997 was repealed.
"If people choose to ignore a court ruling, that is impunity. It is a recipe for chaos for this and any other country. It is also very clear that if you abscond duty and refuse to teach, the best thing to do is not to pay you," he warned.
The Teachers Service Commission Chief Executive Officer Gabriel Lengoiboni pleaded with officials of the teachers' unions to give dialogue a chance so as to find a lasting solution to the allowances standoff.
"We are not going to pay people for work not done. Salary is paid for work done and therefore it will be prudent for the union to declare the strike illegal or call it off because I believe that there will be a solution not far off from now," he said.
The union officials were expected in court on Friday afternoon after the TSC obtained orders to have them summoned over the teachers' strike that kicked off on Monday.
The application before Justice Linnet Ndolo was set to kick off at 2.30pm following a plea by the deputy solicitor general at Office of the Attorney General Muthoni Kimani.
"We appeared before Lady Justice Ndolo this morning when we were ready to proceed with our application but KUPPET asked for time so that they can file a replying affidavit and the judge has kindly granted us a hearing this afternoon, so we will come back at about 2pm," Kimani said.
Both the Labour and Education Secretaries have termed the national mass action as illegal but KNUT states that it is a protected strike.
According to Labour Secretary Kazungu Kambi, the teachers only have a Gazette Notice that they have been holding for a period lasting three different governments and that it could be varied by anyone at any time.
Kaimenyi on the other hand said that Legal Notice 16 of 2003 superseded Legal Notice 534 of 1997 which KNUT wants implemented in full.
He also supported Kazungu's move to declare the teachers' strike illegal and asked them to return to class as negotiations are carried out.
KNUT chairman Wilson Sossion said that the agreement reached in 1997 had been gazetted and could not be arbitrarily overturned.
He accused Kambi and his Education counterpart of trying to hoodwink Kenyans by terming the mass action illegal and stated that the attempts would only fuel their mass action.
He described teachers as learned people and that any attempts to deny them their rights would be resisted.