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No end to strike as Varsities accused of withholding cash

By Augustine Oduor | Published Fri, March 9th 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 9th 2018 at 00:05 GMT +3
University lecturers demonstrate in Nairobi streets where they petitioned Deputy President William Ruto’s office to intervene in CBA Negotiations. [Photo by Willis Awandu/Standard]

The ongoing strike in public universities took a turn as lecturers and workers unions threatened to go to court over withheld monthly deductions.

The University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) and the Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) have accused some universities of deducting tax, pensions and medical insurance every month but not remitting to the relevant agencies.

Also withheld are co-operative society savings deductions and bank loans. As a result, the affected university staff cannot access medical services or loans.

The details emerged when officials from the two unions appeared before the Senate Education Committee yesterday.

Third party

The unions have threatened to go to court to claim third-party deductions running into billions of shillings.

“We are instructing all our chapters to go to court to sort out this mess,” Uasu Secretary General Constantine Wasonga told the senators.

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He said failure by the universities to remit the deductions was causing university workers untold pain and suffering.

“A professor is told he cannot be (medically) treated because his employer has not paid money; workers cannot get loans from their co-operative societies; this is causing us embarrassment," he said.

The senators heard that Moi University owed workers about Sh600 million in third-party deductions.

The unions further said that Technical University of Kenya owed various agencies more than Sh200 million.

Egerton University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and University of Nairobi were also mentioned.

On the strike, Uasu and Kusu said several false starts in negotiation meetings for the new collective bargaining agreement covering the 2017-2021 period, as well as empty promises from the Government had pushed them to the streets.

The unions further accused vice chancellors of delaying talks to negotiate for capitation adjustments to be part of the CBA.

Funding gap

The committee heard that a funding gap had occasioned the current trend where universities have arrears in statutory deductions.

“What is shocking us is that with all these blunders, no State agency has even raised any concerns. Kenya Revenue Authority, for instance - why have they not moved swiftly to collect these monies?” asked Dr Wasonga.

Committee chairman Christopher Langat said the legislators would summon all university managers whose institutions had defaulted on the statutory deductions.

Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni said the committee would take over the matter, terming it criminal.

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