It seems it is strike season in Kenya.
A little perspective as to how labour union and government work in the biggest economy in East Africa.
Employees are disgruntled. They approach their union which forwards their complaints (mostly money related) to the respective ministries. The complaints are ignored. The cycle continues till it gets to a break point where a strike date is declared with outlandish demands such as 4oo% salary increases in one step. More ignoring from the government. The strike commences with the professionals singing a stale solidarity song and carrying manila papers with picket graffiti. More ignoring from the government. A week later, the public that has been supportive of the strike begin getting annoyed by their inconvenience of not getting the prescribed services from the striking professionals. Note they are not angry at the strikers, they are mad at the govenment for not sorting out the mess.
‘Dialogue’ between the union and the governemt commence about a week into the strike when intimidation tactics like firing the vulnerable section of workers and issuing nasty ultimatums do not work. A week later a sort of agreement is signed, cameras are smiled for and the disgruntled employees go back to work. Months later, the workers are back picketing saying that the papers signed have just been gathering dust with no action on the govenments part.
As I write this, the teachers (primary and secondary), Lecturers and doctors at the referral hospitals(to be joined by the other doctors next week if their demands are not met) are all on strike. They are striking because the agreements signed years ago by the government were simply not implemented. The teachers are fighting for an agreement signed in 1997. The lecturers are agonizing over an agreement agreed a few years ago.
That they went back to work having been satisfied that the negotiations are concluded and the requirements met only to find out they have been punked is rather annoying. In the news today it was alleged that the government plans on giving the university lecturers a 14/- increment in their salary. Thats like 14 US cents. Its hilarious.
I wont bother to draw the parallels to the MPs and other stalwarts that draw in millions of shillings in salaries for no tangible work done. Also last financial year Kshs 100 billion + was returned to the treasury for not being used by the respective ministries. So money is clearly available. Where/to whom it should go to is the problem.
In my opinion, Middle class professionals simply must be paid their worth or else you will have perennial problems as the ruler or manager of a country. This is a constituency that is well informed and educated. The tribal politics doesn’t fly with this lot. Simply yapping about our people and dishing out false hope without specifics will get you dead in the water. Pay them meaningful salaries first and you will get a proper audience.