Nairobi — In a change of tact since they began their strike on June 25, the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) has taken a conciliatory stance after President Uhuru Kenyatta categorically stated that his administration will not implement the Sh47 billion pay deal the teachers union signed with previous governments.
The union's National Executive Council (NEC) will be meeting on Sunday to decide whether or not to call off the teachers strike that has crippled learning for three weeks.
"I don't want to make any official statement yet as it will be up to our National Executive Council to decide what position we will take," KNUT Chairman Wilson Sossion told Capital FM News, in a shift from the fire brand declarations he has made in the past. "We have a NEC meeting on Sunday to decide on the matter."
Sossion has previously insisted that the union will not call off the strike, saying "This will be the seventh strike by the teachers of Kenya over their allowances and salaries since 1997. JERICHO WILL COME DOWN!"
The NEC members are expected to deliberate over the Sh17 billion offer made by the government; an offer Sossion has previously described as, "ridiculous," while vowing not to call off the strike unless the 1997 deal contained in Legal Notice 534 is implemented fully.
But that could stand to change after the President made it clear that it will not table any more offers until KNUT calls off its strike in compliance with a court order given by Justice Linnet Ndolo on July 1.
"We hope that KNUT will appreciate that they too will have to abide by the rule of law," the President stated at a breakfast meeting with Editors at State House.
The Head of State made the statement as the negotiation time frame Justice Ndolo gave the Teachers Service Commission, KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET) came to a close with the parties expected to report back to the Industrial Court on Monday morning.
President Kenyatta said his administration was willing to negotiate on commuter allowances, responsibility allowances and medical allowances but drew the line at the housing allowance demands which he says is already harmonised with that of other civil servants.
"You need to be able to look at the bigger picture. We also need to be able to house our policemen but where will that money come from if you're demanding Sh11 million as though it's chicken change. What happens to the rest of the civil service? Be reasonable," he said.
KNUT wanted their housing allowances as captured in Legal Notice 534 of 1997 to be paid in full which would be 50 percent of their salaries and has maintained that it will not accept a staggered commuter allowance.
"We demand that our commuter allowance to be paid at once. How do you stagger payment of Sh2,900 (for the lowest earning teachers) and Sh11,000 ( highest earning teachers) in three years?" KNUT's Acting Secretary General Mudzo Nzili posed, in an interview on Wednesday.
The President having already made his stand known, Sunday's KNUT meeting will determine whether millions of children will resume learning or the teachers' strike will shape up into one of the longest in Kenya's history.