Sobriety must prevail in teachers’ pay talks

News that talks meant to bring a lasting solution to the turmoil in the teaching fraternity have begun on a lukewarm and uptight note is unnerving.

The talks, arranged to thrash out a new collective bargaining agreement after the teachers’ unions agreed to give up their demand for a 50 to 60 per cent pay rise, started on Wednesday with a meeting that achieved nothing of merit.

According to news reports, teachers demanded that their September salaries, which were held back following a month’s strike, be paid upfront, but the Teachers Service Commission was adamant, saying it would only pay after the negotiations were concluded.

With both sides having taken a hardline position, the meeting ended in a stalemate.

While it is heartening to see both sides agreeing to sit and reason after a drawn-out work boycott that threw learning in public schools into disarray only weeks ago, it is equally disturbing to watch as the talks threaten to collapse even before any meaningful agenda has been presented.

Needless to say, nothing can be achieved if both sides flex their muscles and take uncompromising positions on a matter that touches on the livelihoods of thousands of learners and teachers.

The TSC must desist from taking advantage of the fact that the teachers are wounded to put them through a fresh round of humiliation and punishment.

Payment of the September pay was part of the agreement the teachers reached with President Uhuru Kenyatta and it should not feature at all in these discussions.

On the other hand, the teachers should be willing to listen to the reasons the TSC offers for being unable to pay the salaries immediately.

Sanity and sobriety must prevail to ensure that the country does not suffer another unnecessary disruption when schools open in January.