Civil Servant’s salary freeze kicks up a fresh storm as union heads to polls

Mr Tom Odege

Tom Odege claims that he will win even with the pay freeze

By Jackson Kairu

A fresh storm has engulfed the union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) days to union elections slated to take place next Monday, June 22 at the All-Saints Cathedral in Nairobi.

The union Secretary-General Tom Odege reacted in fury at the directive of a salary freeze directive affecting all civil servants announced by the SRC for two years starting from July 2021. The announcement by the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) affects basic salary, allowances and benefits paid in the public service sector, for all government workers.

Union SG Tom Odege says that the turnaround and timing just days to national union polls smacked of mischief saying SRC chairperson M/S Lyn Mengich was out of order

Mr Odege accused SRC of “playing politics” and seeking to influence the outcome of the elections by “favouring” his rivals. Mr Odege said the issue of salary increment for all cadres of civil servants had been negotiated by his team and a deal reached with the employer (government).

Treasury has been struggling to generate revenue to run a bloated public wage bill that consumes more than half of taxes collected, eroding income for development projects. SRC decided to suspend the implementation of the third pay review cycle on advice by the Treasury. This forms part of the IMF conditions for an emergency loan extended this May and which could further see the state cut down on personnel to contain the wage bill that has forced Nairobi into external borrowing now approaching Ksh.9 trillion.

He said the turnaround and timing just days to national union polls smacked of mischief saying SRC chairperson M/S Lyn Mengich was “out of order.” Odege wondered why the state had not started with privatizing the loss-making parastatals and state agencies which were allocated huge amounts of money in the 2021-2022 budget. “Yet they are perennial conduits for the stealing of public funds and had become a burden to the taxpayer” he fumed.

Odege faulted SRC for the “ill-timed and ill-conceived directive” at a time many civil servants are battling to cope with Covid -19 related economic meltdown, a harsh economy and the rising cost of living. The union SG however said he would still carry the day as his “impeccable” record spoke for itself, has brought many benefits for members that include overtime and risk allowance, car grants, house mortgages, and medical cover for all cadres.

“The National Treasury advised the commission that due to the effects of Covid-19 on the performance of revenue and the expected slow economic recovery, it should consider postponing the review for the next two fiscal years until the economy improves”

The National Treasury will review the performance of the economy and advise SRC as and when the review can be done based on the prevailing circumstances to ensure affordability and fiscal sustainability,” said Mengich.

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