Nairobi - The Kenyan union representing more than 200 000
state school teachers on Monday said it will go on strike over payment of
allowances, adding to the government's woes as it struggles to put a lid on
wages and keep control of the budget.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said days after his inauguration in
April that the state could not afford a bigger wage bill. But he faced almost
immediate calls from members of parliament for higher salaries, fuelling
concern that other state workers could follow suit.
Analysts have said other state employees may be inspired to
push for better terms after already well-paid MPs secured generous benefits
even if their salary demands were not met.
"The strike will start immediately after
midnight," Wilson Sossion, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) chairperson,
told the union's top officials. "We have negotiated enough and signed an
agreement. This time we must reach the promised land."
Thousands of secondary school teachers began strike action
last week. The latest announcement means that action will become nationwide and
will include primary schools.
The union has demanded that the state body responsible for
teachers' pay agree to implement what they say is a 1997 deal for housing,
medical and transport allowances.
"The discussions between the teachers union and
government have not broken down," said government spokesman Muthui
Kariuki, adding the government sought an "amicable solution".
The government says teacher demands are unsustainable. The
president wants to cut a public sector wage bill that is now 50% of annual tax
revenue, while the International Monetary Fund puts the global benchmark at
Inflation is running at about 4% in Kenya.
Teachers' salaries range from about 16 000 Kenyan shillings
per month to 142 000 shillings ($190 to $1 600). They are seeking extra
allowances on top of those salaries.
Kenyatta on Friday directed government agencies and teachers
unions to negotiate, the second directive in a week after the initial deadline
lapsed without any development.
Teachers went on strike in September demanding more teachers
be hired to cope with a surge in student numbers after then President Mwai
Kibaki introduced free primary and secondary education.