Kenyan teachers reach pay deal

The Kenyan government will have to find an extra 20 billion shillings to pay teacher salaries.

Teachers' strike. Picture: Eyewitness News.

NAIROBI - Kenyan teachers have called off a strike for higher pay that started on September 3 after signing a deal with the government, their union said on Monday.

Under the terms of the deal, public school teachers will get a pay rise of 5,250 shillings for the lowest paid, taking their pay to 19,000 shillings ($220) a month. The highest paid will get 142,000 shillings a month, a rise of 22,000 shillings.

Unions had demanded between 100 and 300 percent pay rises.

The deal leaves the government with an extra 20 billion shillings to find in the 2012/13 (July-June) fiscal year.

Finance Minister Robinson Githae said he was seeking areas where the funds could be found, including further cuts to ministries' budgets and scrapping development projects scheduled for this fiscal year but yet to start.

"If everything else fails, the last resort is we increase tax," he told Reuters, adding he expected concrete proposals by the end of this week.

The pay rises will be back-dated to July and will allow schools to reopen on Tuesday, said David Okuta, secretary general of the 278,000-member Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT).

KNUT had demanded a 300 percent pay rise, a demand both sides agreed should be negotiated later with the salaries and remuneration commission, created to rationalise wages in the private sector.

Another union representing 47,000 secondary school teachers had asked for a 100 percent pay rise. This will also be addressed by the salaries commission.

Githae said last week those demands were unsustainable and would cost the government an extra 400 billion shillings a year.

Top officials in Kenya are paid handsomely, with members of parliament earning about $13,000 a month, creating resentment among many citizens.

Doctors at public hospitals went on strike earlier this month to press for payment of higher allowances that they say the government had agreed to.

The strikes come before a parliamentary and presidential election due in early March.