NGO Council supports planned strike by civil servants over salary freeze as announced by SRC

NGO Council of Kenya chairman Mr Stephen Cheboi

The union issued a 14-day notice threatening to paralyze government operations

By Jackson Kairu

The NGO council of Kenya lends support for the planned strike by civil servants who have, through their union given a 14-day notice to the government to shelve plans to freeze salaries for 2 years or face industrial action. 

NGO council chairman, Stephen Cheboi in a press statement supports the union saying the government had blundered in its 2021-22 budget when it again allotted loss-making firms more money allegedly to “cushion them against Covid -19”. 

NGO Council Chairman Stephen Cheboi said “the people who need to be cushioned more are ordinary Kenyans who can’t put a decent meal on the table, not the loss-making parastatals”

“Cushioning who and how?” wondered Cheboi, he said the CS for finance disappointed many Kenyans battling harsh economic times and punitive Covid 19 health restrictions that have slashed household incomes of many families. “The people who need to be cushioned are ordinary Kenyans who can’t put a decent meal on the table, not loss-making firms” Cheboi stressed. He warned that subordinate staff and civil servants in local grades and their dependents will suffer from the “harsh and unplanned punitive action” by SRC.

He termed the move “ill-conceived” saying it would not reduce bloated public wage bill that consumes more than half of taxes, eroding income for development projects. He instead rooted for immediate suspension of all non-essential trips abroad by national government and county officials and a more vigorous fight against grand corruption including freezing assets procured from proceeds of stolen public funds.

Cheboi said state agencies that were again awarded huge allocations in the 2021-2022 budget are “perennial conduits for stealing of public funds” and should have been sold off instead as advised by IMF to raise funds for development.

Union of Kenya Civil Servants (UKCS) Secretary-General Tom Mboya Odege speaking to The Weekly Vision by phone, said they had issued the notice after the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) issued an “ill-advised” move to freeze salary increment for 2 years affecting all cadres of civil servants. This he said abrogated already negotiated and budgeted salary increments making the order “illegal and unacceptable.”

Odege who is also Nyatike Constituency MP said the timing was also “suspect” as the union holds an AGM Tuesday, June 22 to elect officials for a further 5-year term. SRC said it was responding to demands by the IMF to cut on costs of paying government workers salaries and allowances “already negotiated and on their payroll.” But Odege dismissed the claim saying the conditional loan of Kshs 357 billion by IMF specifically urged the government to privatize and sell off loss-making parastatals like Kenya Power, Kenya Oil, Kenya Seed, and the National Youth Service (NYS), among others.

Odege said IMF and other multilateral lenders like the World Bank and European union demanded that the government cut down public spending to avoid “ballooning external debts” by not allocating any money in future to “money guzzling” state agencies that are nothing but “paper tigers”. Kenya already owes a staggering Kshs 9 trillion and counting in external loans with interest.

 Odege said the finance minister had instead gone ahead to again allocate billions of shillings to the loss-making parastatals which have become like the “sword of Damocles” to Kenyans who receive substandard services from the firms.

“The National Treasury should focus on austerity measures that are realistic and viable,” he said, agreeing with Odege that “paper tigers” should be privatized and sold off not allocated money from taxpayers.

The civil servants union will hold its AGM at the All-Saints Cathedral and hold national elections with front runner Odege expected to win another 5-year term after his main rivals withdrew from the race in his favour.

At least 130 delegates are expected to convene from various branches and Odege, according to sources close to the elections, already has block support of 90 civil servants, more than two thirds to ensure a landslide victory on Tuesday.

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