Nairobi - A Kenyan court on Friday ordered the immediate suspension of a strike by teachers that began at the start of September over demands that they receive a pay rise of up to 60 percent.
The government has rejected the demand, saying it would put unsustainable pressure on the budget, with the deficit in the 2015/16 financial year already forecast to be 8.7 percent of gross domestic product.
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Industrial court judge Nelson Abuodha ordered a 90-day suspension of the strike and gave both sides a month to pick a neutral conciliator or a panel of mediators to negotiate implementation of the pay award.
Under the terms of the return-to-work formula set out by the court, none of the striking teachers will be punished through measures like deduction of pay, the judge said.
An appeal by the government against the pay rise award for teachers is set to be heard by the country's court of appeal on Sept. 29. It was not immediately clear what impact Friday's ruling would have on the appeal.
The government has changed school term dates to cope with the strike action by unions that have more than 280,000 members.
President Uhuru Kenyata said on Sunday that meeting the teachers' pay demand would lead to increases in the salaries of other state workers, which Kenya could not afford. The government already spends 52 percent of its revenues on wages.
Teachers said their demand for a 50 to 60 percent pay rise was because successive governments had failed to honour a pay deal reached in 1997. Kenyatta denied this and said Kenyan teachers' pay was already higher than others in the region.