Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i has kept off the lecturers’ pay talks saying his hands are tied by the law.
In a two-page letter to the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Dr Matiang’i explained that it is unlawful for him to meddle in the talks that have seemingly hit the wall.
“As you are aware the process of negotiating the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) flows from the Constitution of Kenya, labour laws and employee/employer contractual arrangements,” said the CS.
But Uasu secretary general Constantine Wasonga insisted that the buck stops with the minister.
“He is the CS and university education is not a devolved function. Besides, the universities get money through the ministry. He cannot purport to wash his hands,” said Wasonga.
In his letter, Matiang’i told Uasu that the CBA for public universities is a negotiation between the employer represented by the Inter-Public Universities Councils Consultative Forum and the three unions.
“I have every intention of upholding the law and playing by the rule book. I am therefore constrained by the Constitution, labour laws, employment and labour relations practices,” said Matiang’i in a letter dated February 23.
The CS believes the joint negotiation team is doing a good job.
Matiang’i further defended his action saying that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC) has pronounced itself on the matter.
Matiang’i said: “I am therefore constrained from contravening the SRC advisory where the commission has pronounced itself on the matter.”
The SRC letter, signed by secretary Anne Gitau, rules out any increment on house allowances. “House allowance for employees represented by the three unions to be retained at the current rates.”
Matiang’i noted that SRC gave the parameters and beacons of the negotiations. This means that the lecturers should take the Sh10 billion government offer, as advised by SRC.
Lecturers are however demanding Sh22 billion in addition to a 20 per cent house allowance.
Pressure continues to mount on the government to end the ongoing university workers strike that has paralysed learning.
Trade Union Congress of Kenya (TUC-Ke), an umbrella body representing teachers, civil servants and lecturers yesterday weighed in, calling the government to end the strike that enters 38 days today.
They accused the SRC of interfering with the talks and called for its disbandment.
“We have identified one body that interferes with workers talks and that is SRC. It has to be done away with. It has messed up the negotiations,” said TUC-Ke secretary general Wilson Sossion.
Addressing the media on Thursday, Mr Sossion alleged there is a deliberate effort to drag talks.
“SRC is the hidden hand that interferes with salary negotiations. If talks go on and on for a long time it means they are waiting for workers to wear out,” he said.
He accused the government of undermining the unions.
“As a labour centre, this unrest can be resolved. And the leaders of these movements are ready to negotiate. From this minute we strongly rally our unreserved support for Uasu and Kenya Universities Staff Union to have and sign a CBA,” said Sossion.
Sossion dismissed the letter by SRC terming it a mere opinion that is not binding